Creativity is an essential cognitive ability linked to all areas of our everyday functioning. Thus, finding a way to enhance it is of broad interest. A large number of anecdotal reports suggest that the consumption of psychedelic drugs can enhance creative thinking; however, scientific evidence is lacking. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design, we demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced a time- and construct-related differentiation of effects on creative thinking. Acutely, psilocybin increased ratings of (spontaneous) creative insights, while decreasing (deliberate) task-based creativity. Seven days after psilocybin, number of novel ideas increased. Furthermore, we utilized an ultrahigh field multimodal brain imaging approach, and found that acute and persisting effects were predicted by within- and between-network connectivity of the default mode network. Findings add some support to historical claims that psychedelics can influence aspects of the creative process, potentially indicating them as a tool to investigate creativity and subsequent underlying neural mechanisms. Trial NL6007; psilocybin as a tool for enhanced cognitive flexibility.
Ketamine is central to one of the most rapidly growing areas of neuroscientific research into novel treatments for depression. Limited research has indicated that the psychedelic properties of ketamine may play a role in its antidepressant effects.
The story of ketamine is a fascinating one from its synthesis from phencyclidine derivatives in the 1950s,5 its widespread use during the Vietnam war, its re-emergence on the modern-day battlefield, and today for the treatment of wounded warriors and others suffering from intractable chronic depression. Ketamine’s story is still not finished and so something old continues to become something new.
The medical use of psychedelic substances (e.g. psilocybin, ayahuasca, lysergic acid diethylamide and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is attracting renewed interest, driven by a pressing need for research and development of novel therapies for psychiatric disorders, as well as promising results of contemporary studies. In this Viewpoint, we reflect upon the ‘Clinical Memorandum on Psychedelics’ recently released by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and note subsequent developments including the application for down-scheduling of psilocybin and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine presently being considered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and approvals for access via the Special Access Scheme.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is among the most prevalent mental health disorders worldwide, and it is associated with a reduced quality of life and enormous costs to health care systems. Available drug treatments show low-to-moderate response in most patients, with almost a third of patients being non-responders (treatment-resistant). Furthermore, most currently available medications need several weeks to achieve therapeutic effects, and the long-term use of these drugs is often associated with significant unwanted side effects and resultant reductions in treatment compliance. Therefore, more effective, safer, and faster-acting antidepressants with enduring effects are needed. Together with ketamine, psychedelics (or classic or serotoninergic hallucinogens) such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, and ayahuasca are among the few compounds with recent human evidence of fast-acting antidepressant effects.
Psychedelic drugs are increasingly being incorporated into therapeutic contexts for the purposes of promoting mental health. However, they can also induce adverse reactions in some individuals, and it is difficult to predict before treatment who is likely to experience positive or adverse acute effects. Although consideration of setting and dosage as well as excluding individuals with psychotic predispositions has thus far led to a high degree of safety, it is imperative that researchers develop a more nuanced understanding of how to predict individual reactions. To this end, the current systematic review coalesced the results of 14 studies that included baseline states or traits predictive of the acute effects of psychedelics. Individuals high in the traits of absorption, openness, and acceptance as well as a state of surrender were more likely to have positive and mystical-type experiences, whereas those low in openness and surrender or in preoccupied, apprehensive, or confused psychological states were more likely to experience acute adverse reactions. Participant sex was not a robust predictor of drug effects, but 5-HT2AR binding potential, executive network node diversity, and rACC volume may be potential baseline biomarkers related to acute reactions. Finally, increased age and experience with psychedelics were individual differences related to generally less intense effects, indicating that users may become slightly less sensitive to the effects of the drugs after repeated usage. Although future well-powered, placebo-controlled trials directly comparing the relative importance of these predictors is needed, this review synthesizes the field’s current understanding of how to predict acute reactions to psychedelic drugs.
This review illustrates the relevance of shamanism and its evolution under effects of psilocybin as a framework for identifying evolved aspects of psychedelic set and setting. Effects of 5HT2 psychedelics on serotonin, stress adaptation, visual systems and personality illustrate adaptive mechanisms through which psychedelics could have enhanced hominin evolution as an environmental factor influencing selection for features of our evolved psychology.
Recently, low-dose ketamine has been proposed as a rapid-acting treatment option for suicidality. The majority of studies to date have utilised intravenous (IV) ketamine, however, this route of administration has limitations. On the other hand, oral ketamine can be administered in a range of settings, which is important in treating suicidality, although studies as to safety and feasibility are lacking. n = 32 adults (aged 22–72 years; 53% female) with chronic suicidal thoughts participated in the Oral Ketamine Trial on Suicidality (OKTOS), an open-label trial of sub-anaesthetic doses of oral ketamine over 6 weeks. Participants commenced with 0.5 mg/kg of ketamine, which was titrated to a maximum 3.0 mg/kg. Follow-up assessments occurred at 4 weeks after the final dose. The primary outcome measure was the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSS) and secondary measures included scales for suicidality and depressive symptoms, and measures of functioning and well-being. Mean BSS scores significantly reduced from a high level of suicidal ideation at the pre-ketamine (week 0) timepoint to below the clinical threshold at the post-ketamine (week 6) timepoint. The proportion of participants that achieved clinical improvement within the first 6 weeks was 69%, whereas 50% achieved a significant improvement by the follow-up (week 10) timepoint. Six weeks of oral ketamine treatment in participants with chronic suicidality led to significant reduction in suicidal ideation. The response observed in this study is consistent with IV ketamine trials, suggesting that oral administration is a feasible and tolerable alternative treatment for chronic suicidality.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic and disabling disorder, for which available pharmacotherapies have limited efficacy. The authors’ previous proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial of single-dose intravenous ketamine infusion in individuals with PTSD showed significant and rapid PTSD symptom reduction 24 hours postinfusion. The present study is the first randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy and safety of repeated intravenous ketamine infusions for the treatment of chronic PTSD.
Mounting evidence supports the serotonin 2A receptor agonist psilocybin as a psychiatric pharmacotherapy. Little research has experimentally examined how session “set and setting” impacts subjective and therapeutic effects. We analyzed the effects of the musical genre played during sessions of a psilocybin study for tobacco smoking cessation. Participants (N = 10) received psilocybin (20–30 mg/70 kg) in two sessions, each with a different musical genre (Western classical versus overtone-based), with the order counterbalanced. Participants chose one genre for a third session (30 mg/70 kg). Mystical experiences scores tended to be higher in overtone-based sessions than in Western classical sessions. Six of ten participants chose the overtone-based music for a third session. Biologically confirmed smoking abstinence was similar based on musical choice, with a slight benefit for participants choosing the overtone-based playlist (66.7% versus 50%). These data call into question whether Western classical music typically used in psychedelic therapy holds a unique benefit. Broadly, we call for experimentally examining session components toward optimizing psychedelic therapeutic protocols.
Pilot studies have hinted that serotonergic psychedelics such as psilocybin may relieve depression, and could possibly do so by promoting neural plasticity. Intriguingly, another psychotomimetic compound, ketamine, is a fast-acting antidepressant and induces synapse formation. The similarities in behavioral and neural effects have been puzzling because the compounds target distinct molecular receptors in the brain. In this opinion article, we develop a conceptual framework that suggests the actions of ketamine and serotonergic psychedelics may converge at the dendrites, to both enhance and suppress membrane excitability. We speculate that mismatches in the opposing actions on dendritic excitability may relate to these compounds’ cell-type and region selectivity, their moderate range of effects and toxicity, and their plasticity-promoting capacities.
This case report describes successful maintenance treatment with oral S-ketamine in a patient with severe depression, who previously was resistant to electroconvulsive therapy and deep brain stimulation, and who also had comorbid psychotic and obsessive compulsive symptoms.
The psychedelic alkaloid ibogaine has anti-addictive properties in both humans and animals1. Unlike most medications for the treatment of substance use disorders, anecdotal reports suggest that ibogaine has the potential to treat addiction to various substances, including opiates, alcohol and psychostimulants. The effects of ibogaine—like those of other psychedelic compounds—are long-lasting2, which has been attributed to its ability to modify addiction-related neural circuitry through the activation of neurotrophic factor signalling3,4. However, several safety concerns have hindered the clinical development of ibogaine, including its toxicity, hallucinogenic potential and tendency to induce cardiac arrhythmias. Here we apply the principles of function-oriented synthesis to identify the key structural elements of the potential therapeutic pharmacophore of ibogaine, and we use this information to engineer tabernanthalog—a water-soluble, non-hallucinogenic, non-toxic analogue of ibogaine that can be prepared in a single step. In rodents, tabernanthalog was found to promote structural neural plasticity, reduce alcohol- and heroin-seeking behaviour, and produce antidepressant-like effects. This work demonstrates that, through careful chemical design, it is possible to modify a psychedelic compound to produce a safer, non-hallucinogenic variant that has therapeutic potential.
Therapeutic psychedelic administration and contact with nature have been associated with the same psychological mechanisms: decreased rumination and negative affect, enhanced psychological connectedness and mindfulness-related capacities, and heightened states of awe and transcendent experiences, all processes linked to improvements in mental health amongst clinical and healthy populations. Nature-based settings can have inherently psychologically soothing properties which may complement all stages of psychedelic therapy (mainly preparation and integration) whilst potentiating increases in nature relatedness, with associated psychological benefits. Maximising enhancement of nature relatedness through therapeutic psychedelic administration may constitute an independent and complementary pathway towards improvements in mental health that can be elicited by psychedelics.
Poor sleep may be associated with many illnesses, including substance use disorders. Ketamine use disorder has significantly increased in Taiwan in recent years and may lead to physical and cognitive problems.
A single dose of psilocybin, a psychedelic and serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) agonist, may be associated with antidepressant effects. The mechanism behind its antidepressive action is unknown but could be linked to increased synaptogenesis and down-regulation of cerebral 5- HT2AR. Here, we investigate if a single psychedelic dose of psilocybin changes synaptic vesicle protein 2A (SV2A) and 5-HT2AR density in the pig brain.
Attachment insecurity is determined early in life, is a risk factor for psychopathology, and can be measured on two separate continuous dimensions: attachment anxiety and attach- ment avoidance. Therapeutic changes toward more secure attachment correlate with reduction in psychiatric symptoms. Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has demonstrated promise in the treatment of psychopathology, such as treatment-resistant depression and substance use disorders. We hypothesized that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy would reduce attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, thus increasing attachment security. We also hypothesized that baseline measures of attachment insecurity, which can reflect a diminished capacity for trust and exploration, would inform the quality of the psilocybin session. Participants were male long-term AIDS survivors with moderate-severe demoralization (n = 18). Using the Experiences in Close Relationships scale, we measured attachment insecurity at baseline as well as immediately, and 3 months, after completion of a brief group therapy course, which included a single midtreatment open-label psilocybin session conducted individually. Clinically important aspects of the psilocybin session were assessed using the revised Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Challenging Experience Questionnaire the day following psilocybin administration. Self-reported ratings of attachment anxiety decreased significantly from baseline to 3-months post-intervention, t(16) = −2.2; p = 0.045; drm = 0.45; 95% CI 0.01, 0.87. Attachment avoidance did not change significantly. Baseline attachment anxiety was strongly correlated with psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experiences, r(15) = 0.53, p = 0.029, and baseline attachment avoidance was strongly correlated with psilocybin-related challenging experiences, r(16) = 0.62, p = 0.006. These findings have important implications for the general treatment of psychopathology as well as optimizing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a broadly applicable treatment modality.
Due to unmet clinical needs for efficient drugs with a rapid onset of antidepressant effects, we aimed to evaluate the efficacy of single-dose ketamine in different subgroups of patients with major depression and establish whether repeated ketamine administration could be a viable strategy to maintain treatment gains.
As interest has grown in the potential psychiatric applications of ketamine, the number of registered clinical trials has grown substantially. Herein, we summarize and analyze clinical trials registered with ClinicalTrials.gov that assess the treatment of any psychiatric disorder with ketamine or ketamine enantiomers (e.g., S-ketamine, R-ketamine), with a focus on ongoing clinical trials. A ClinicalTrials.gov search on February 2020 returned 140 registered trials. Frequency data was analyzed to determine the distribution of study designs. The majority of trials (70%) investigated the therapeutic effect of ketamine in mood disorders (unipolar: 60%, bipolar: 0.7%, both:5.7%). Suicidal ideation (13.1%), post-traumatic stress disorder (5.4%), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (3.6%) were also investigated. Intravenous (IV) administration was the most common route with 87% of the studies using IV ketamine. Single-dose studies represented 50% of IV ketamine studies. Few studies were assessing maintenance treatment. Most studies were phase I or II with few definitive phase III trials registered. Given the large number of ongoing studies assessing psychiatric application of ketamine, researchers and relevant stakeholders should consider not only completed, published studies, but also ongoing registered studies in adjudicating the most relevant research questions. More definitive phase III trials and maintenance studies of IV ketamine for mood disorders are required, as numerous completed and ongoing studies have already assessed and demonstrated the proof-of-concept of acute antidepressant effects in phase I and II trials.
After a legally mandated, decades-long global arrest of research on psychedelic drugs, investigation of psychedelics in the context of psychiatric disorders is yielding exciting results. Outcomes of neuroscience and clinical research into 5-Hydroxytryptamine 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonists, such as psilocybin, show promise for addressing a range of serious disorders, including depression and addiction.
Maladaptive reward memories (MRMs) are involved in the development and maintenance of acquired overconsumption disorders, such as harmful alcohol and drug use. The process of memory reconsolidation - where stored memories become briefly labile upon retrieval - may offer a means to disrupt MRMs and prevent relapse. However, reliable means for pharmacologically weakening MRMs in humans remain elusive. Here we demonstrate that the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist ketamine is able to disrupt MRMs in hazardous drinkers when administered immediately after their retrieval. MRM retrieval + ketamine (RET + KET) effectively reduced the reinforcing effects of alcohol and long-term drinking levels, compared to ketamine or retrieval alone. Blood concentrations of ketamine and its metabolites during the critical ‘reconsolidation window’ predicted beneficial changes only following MRM reactivation. Pharmacological reconsolidation interference may provide a means to rapidly rewrite maladaptive memory and should be further pursued in alcohol and drug use disorders.
In major depression, remission rate in response to monoaminergic antidepressant is around 50%. The lack of strong synergies between classical antidepressants and psychotherapy may be due to the molecular effects of classical antidepressants. They modulate synapses but they do not substantially influence synaptogenesis. They also increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, for activity-dependent plasticity, BDNF release has to work in concert with activation of synaptogenesis. There has been considerable excitement about ketamine’s antidepressant effect. Ketamine leads to fast changes in synaptic function and plasticity that go well beyond effects of classical antidepressants. As a result, ketamine may turn out to have the capacity to considerably enhance the effects of psychotherapy. Such enhancing effects may become an important clinical indication for ketamine since its purely pharmacological effect is transient. This editorial outlines some mechanistic hypotheses, how Behavioral Activation, Trauma-Focused Psychotherapies and Humanistic Psychotherapy may specifically prolong ketamine’s antidepressant effects.
Currently, ketamine is the only legal psychedelic medicine available to mental health providers for the treatment of emotional suffering. Over the past several years, ketamine has come into psychiatric use as an intervention for treatment resistant depression (TRD), administered intravenously without a psychotherapeutic component. In these settings, ketamine’s psychedelic effects are viewed as undesirable “side effects.” In contrast, we believe ketamine can benefit patients with a wide variety of diagnoses when administered with psychotherapy and using its psychedelic properties without need for intravenous (IV) access. Its proven safety over decades of use makes it ideal for office and supervised at-home use. The unique experience that ketamine facilitates with its biological, experiential, and psychological impacts has been tailored to optimize office-based treatment evolving into a method that we call Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP). This article is the first to explore KAP within an analytical framework examining three distinct practices that use similar methods. Here, we present demographic and outcome data from 235 patients. Our findings suggest that KAP is an effective method for decreasing depression and anxiety in a private practice setting, especially for older patients and those with severe symptom burden.
Several studies now provide evidence of ketamine hydrochloride’s ability to produce rapid and robust antidepressant effects in patients with mood and anxiety disorders that were previously resistant to treatment. Despite the relatively small sample sizes, lack of longer-term data on efficacy, and limited data on safety provided by these studies, they have led to increased use of ketamine as an off-label treatment for mood and other psychiatric disorders.
By now, everyone knows that medication development for mental disorders has hit a wall, pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the search for new medications, and there are no promising new medications on the horizon.1 So it is important to take a moment to consider ketamine, an anesthetic that has been around for decades. Intravenous ketamine was the anesthetic of choice for outpatient procedures in children when I was in medical training nearly 40 years ago. Twenty years ago ketamine achieved notoriety as a recreational drug under the moniker “Special K.” But in the past decade, ketamine has emerged as a potential antidepressant.
Accumulating evidence suggests that ketamine may exert rapid antidepressant effects in major depressive disorder patients. This study showed that ketamine is as effective as ECT in improving depressive symptoms in MDD patients and has more rapid antidepressant effects compared with the ECT.
Depression is a common chronic psychiatric disorder that is also often co-morbid with numerous neurological and immune diseases. Accumulating evidence indicates that disturbances of neuroplasticity occur with depression, including reductions of hippocampal neurogenesis and cortical synaptogenesis. Improper trophic support stemming from stressor-induced reductions of growth factors, most notably brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), likely drives such aberrant neuroplasticity. We posit that psychological and immune stressors can interact upon a vulnerable genetic background to promote depression by disturbing BDNF and neuroplastic processes. Furthermore, the chronic and commonly relapsing nature of depression is suggested to stem from “faulty wiring” of emotional circuits driven by neuroplastic aberrations. The present review considers depression in such terms and attempts to integrate the available evidence indicating that the efficacy of current and “next wave” antidepressant treatments, whether used alone or in combination, is at least partially tied to their ability to modulate neuroplasticity. We particularly focus on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, ketamine, which already has well documented rapid antidepressant effects, and the trophic cytokine, erythropoietin (EPO), which we propose as a potential adjunctive antidepressant agent.
Ketamine is a prescription drug used for general anesthesia. In subanesthetic doses, it induces profound psychedelic experiences and hallucinations. The subanesthetic effect of ketamine was the hypothesized therapeutic mechanism in the authors' use of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for alcoholism. The results of a controlled clinical trial demonstrated a considerable increase in efficacy of the authors' standard alcoholism treatment when supplemented by ketamine psychedelic therapy (KPT). Total abstinence for more than one year was observed in 73 out of Ill (65.8%) alcoholic patients in the KPT group, compared to 24% (24 out of 100 patients) of the conventional treatment control group (p<0.01). The authors' studies of the underlying psychological mechanisms of KPT have indicated that ketamine-assisted psychedelic therapy of alcoholic patients induces a harmonization of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) personality profile, positive transformation of nonverbalized (mostly unconscious) self-concept and emotional attitudes to various aspects of self and other people, positive changes in life values and purposes. important insights into the meaning of life and anincrease in the level of spiritual development. Most importantly, these psychological changes were shown to favor a sober lifestyle. The data from biochemical investigations showed that the phannacological action of KPT affects both monoaminergic and opioidergic neurotransmitter metabolism, i.e., those neurochemical systems which are involved in the pathogenesis of alcohol dependence. The data from EEG computer-assisted analysis demonstrated that ketamine increases theta activity in cerebrocortical regions of alcoholic patients. This is evidence of the reinforcement of limbic cortex interaction during the KPT session.
Existing therapies for bipolar depression have a considerable lag of onset of action. Pharmacological strategies that produce rapid antidepressant effects—for instance, within a few hours or days—would have an enormous impact on patient care and public health.