Treatment & Research In Psychedelics
Treatment & Research In Psychedelics
Los Angeles, CA
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy at Pacific Neuroscience Institute
The Pacific Treatment & Research in Psychedelics (TRIP) Program is dedicated to the appropriate medical use of psychedelic-assisted therapy to heal the mind, improve brain health and enhance quality of life.
With seed funding from the Annenberg Foundation and other supporters, we are working to develop psychedelic-assisted treatments as a path toward fundamental and lasting improvements for conditions including:
- Major depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Palliative care settings
- Drug and alcohol use disorders
Upcoming Clinical Trial:
Treating Prolonged Grief Due to Loss from COVID-19 and Other Causes
TRIP is hoping to launch a psilocybin clinical trial for people with “complicated grief,” to be conducted in collaboration with Françoise Bourzat, a somatic psychologist and experienced guide and Dr. Chris Adrian a palliative care expert. That trial would enroll patients who lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic or are suffering from prolonged grief of 6 months or more from other life events. There is a huge unmet need for more effective therapies for people consumed by prolonged grief, as a result of the pandemic when funerals and memorial services have been postponed. We are currently seeking funding for this clinical trial.
Behavioral health issues are a leading cause of disability and they remain inadequately treated worldwide.
The modest effectiveness of existing treatments such as antidepressants and traditional psychotherapy approaches show us that there is an urgent need for more effective treatments for conditions such as depression, alcoholism, smoking cessation, and end of life suffering.
Early studies of psychedelic-assisted therapies for these conditions have demonstrated much larger and durable effects compared to existing therapies suggesting that there is great potential for psychedelic-assisted treatments to revolutionize the treatment of mental health and behavioral disorders.
The Psychedelic Treatment Experience at Pacific Neuroscience Institute
- Ketamine treatment and psychedelic-assisted clinical trials
- Highly trained and experienced addiction medicine doctor
- Supportive multidisciplinary care
- Curated personalized patient experience
- Boutique, safe and holistic approach
- Unique non-academic treatment and research center on the West Coast
- Video environment by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg
How Does Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Work?
Patients often feel STUCK in a repetitive cycle of depression, anxiety, compulsions, cravings, or harmful behaviors. Medications may reduce symptoms, but relapse is common when the medication is stopped. Psychotherapy aims to change unhealthy thoughts or behaviors, but this process is often slow and may never achieve the breakthrough needed to produce sustained change.
In psychedelic-assisted therapy, psychedelic medication is a catalyst to enhance self-exploration and accelerate the psychotherapy process.
The psychedelic medication allows patients to better access their subconscious, address their core underlying issues, and connect with their inner capacity to heal emotionally.
Biologically, psychedelic medications may facilitate change by resetting a brain region called the Default Mode Network and triggering increased synaptic plasticity. As a result, in addition to reducing symptoms, patients may undergo a personal transformation, become UNSTUCK, and achieve a more rapid and sustained change compared to standard treatments.
What to Expect During Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
Psychedelic-assisted therapy involves administering a psychedelic drug to a patient under clinical supervision to trigger an altered state of consciousness or mystical experience.
This model can be used with a variety of psychedelic medications including psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), MDMA, LSD, and ketamine. At the TRIP Program, patients may receive psychedelic-assisted therapy via our Ketamine Treatment Program or by enrolling in a clinical trial.
The psychedelic experience is influenced not only by the choice of drug, but also by the set (the patient’s mindset entering the experience) and the setting (the environment and surroundings). In psychedelic-assisted therapy, the drug is given within the context of a “set and setting” psychotherapy program. A physician monitors the patient for safety.
Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment Timeline
A course of treatment typically involves a program of psychotherapy with 1-3 psychedelic dosing sessions usually over 3-6 months.
Ketamine Therapy at PNI
Patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, end-of-life distress, chronic pain, drug/alcohol problems, and other conditions may be eligible for psychedelic-assisted therapy with ketamine at the TRIP program.
Ketamine is approved for use at high doses as an anesthetic in the operating room. Although not FDA-approved, lower dose “sub-anesthetic” ketamine injections are used “off-label” to treat depression, pain, and other mental health/substance use disorders.
Our program includes one or a few in-clinic ketamine dosing sessions under clinician supervision integrated with preparatory and integration counseling. By harnessing the potential psychedelic effects of ketamine we aim to achieve more sustained results with fewer ketamine treatments compared to IV ketamine infusions without accompanying psychotherapy.
Psychedelic-Assisted Clinical Trials
Our TRIP clinical trials program is working to develop new psychedelic therapies and advance psychedelic medications including psilocybin to FDA approval. For information about psychedelic-assisted clinical trials visit the clinical trials page below.
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Background
The potential for mystical experiences to produce rapid, profound, and sustained changes in insight, mood, behavior, and consciousness was recognized and first used by indigenous cultures in shamanic and other healing rituals. Psychedelic-assisted therapies for treating behavioral health disorders was studied extensively and safely in approximately 40,000 patients in North America in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Its use faded due to the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, but there is a renaissance in psychedelic-assisted therapies that has been gaining momentum since the 1990’s.
Current Psychedelic Research
Today, multiple clinical trials are underway testing a variety of psychedelic drugs including psilocybin, the active ingredient of “magic mushrooms,” MDMA (“ecstasy”), and ketamine, for a diverse range of indications including major depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, end-of-life and palliative care setting, as well as alcohol, nicotine and other substance use disorders.
Available treatments for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders involve daily administration of a medication aimed at correction of neurochemical imbalances via action at specific receptors (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, mu opioid).
In contrast, psychedelic-assisted therapy uses the drug to produce a short-lived but intense subjective experience—the mystical or peak experience—which triggers or elicits an afterglow, accompanied by a subsequent positive change in affect, insight, motivation, cognition, and behavior.
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Mystical Experience
Qualities of the mystical experience as described by patients include a sense of unity, a noetic quality, sacredness, positive mood, transcendence of time and space, and ineffability.
While the exact mechanism of psychedelic-assisted therapy remains an deep area of study, current thinking based on neuroimaging and clinical studies, suggests that a major mode of action may be a transient, but profound state of ego dissolution largely due to an impact on a cortical brain region referred to as the Default Mode Network (DMN).
One of the most interesting potentials of psychedelic-assisted therapies is that a given compound such as psilocybin may have trans-diagnostic potential, meaning achieving a psilocybin-induced mystical state may lead to profound and sustained improvement across multiple disorders including depression, anxiety and addiction.
Conditions treated with ketamine psychedelic-assisted therapy
We treat people 16 years and older who are treatment-resistant or who wish to effectively tackle deep-rooted, unresolved trauma that has not been adequately addressed by other treatment options.
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Frequently Asked Questions
Is psychedelic-assisted therapy FDA-approved?
No psychedelic-assisted therapy is FDA-approved although clinical trials with psilocybin (from “magic mushrooms”) and MDMA are underway. Ketamine is FDA-approved as an anesthetic but can be used “off-label” in psychedelic-assisted therapy outside of clinical trials.
What conditions can be treated with psychedelic-assisted therapy?
Based on prior studies dating back to the 1950’s and more recent clinical trials, patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, end-of-life distress, chronic pain, and/or drug or alcohol problems may be candidates for psychedelic-assisted therapy.
How is psychedelic-assisted therapy different than taking a psychedelic drug?
Psychedelic-assisted therapy is under a doctor’s supervision, includes counseling and clinical support before, during, and after the psychedelic dosing session, and the medication is part of an integrated program of psychotherapy and self-exploration as opposed to providing the drug as an isolated treatment. Taking a psychedelic drug outside of medical treatment or a clinical trial is in most cases illegal and not something we can recommend or assist with.
What if I have a “bad trip” during my psychedelic-assisted therapy?
The goal of psychedelic-assisted therapy is to facilitate accessing deep emotional issues such that they can be addressed in subsequent integration counseling sessions. The psychedelic treatment may bring up anxiety, fear, or difficult or challenging emotions or memories which is why we will be at your side to assist and support you before, during, and after the psychedelic session.
Research suggests that the intensity of the psychedelic experience is one of the best predictors of a therapeutic response, even when the experience is difficult or challenging. Therefore we do not consider a difficult session to be a “bad trip” but instead focus on supporting you and assisting you in maximizing the benefit you can obtain from the experience whether it is pleasant, challenging, or both.
What are some possible side effects of psychedelic-assisted therapy?
Blood pressure and heart rate typically increase during the dosing session and there is a risk of cardiovascular compilations especially in patients with cardiac disease. There is a very small risk of developing persistent perceptual disturbances or hallucinations after the psychedelic dosing session although this risk seems to be less than with recreational or non-medical psychedelic use.
There is a small risk of abuse or addiction to psychedelic drugs which is why psychedelic-assisted therapy involves a limited number of dosing sessions at the clinic under medical supervision followed by counseling and clinical monitoring. Like all therapies, there is a chance that psychedelic-assisted therapy will not work for your condition.
Is psychedelic-assisted therapy “microdosing?”
“Microdosing” psychedelics involves taking sub-psychedelic doses of a psychedelic on a regular schedule (e.g every 3 days) often chronically. Microdosing of psychedelics is purported to have beneficial effects on mood and cognitive performance but few controlled studies of microdosing have been done to date. In contrast, most clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted therapy use a full psychedelic dose, usually administered once or only a few times over several months.
Is psychedelic-assisted therapy covered by insurance?
Counseling and/or doctor visits before and after the psychedelic dosing sessions typically involve standard care and may be billable to insurance. The ketamine psychedelic dosing session, which involves several hours of treatment and monitoring under medical supervision at the clinic, is not currently billable to insurance and out-of-pocket cost is approximately $1,200 per session. Some costs for patients in clinical trials may be paid for by the sponsor.
About Dr. Heinzerling
TRIP Collaborators & Advisors
Videos about Psychedelic Assisted Therapy
Conversation with Françoise Bourzat | Consciousness Medicine and Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
The Promise of Psychedelics | Dr. Keith Heinzerling & Louie Schwartzberg
Meet Dr. Heinzerling
Surgery, Shamanism, and Psychedelics │Françoise Bourzat and Dr. Dan Kelly
Combining Psychedelic Science and Wisdom at TRIP │ A PNI Panel
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