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Clerkenwell Health is launching a free UK psychedelic therapist training programme

In this article, communications associate at Clerkenwell Health, Arda Ozcubukcu, discusses how the company is working to ensure psychedelic-assisted therapy is easily adopted by mainstream healthcare systems in the UK.

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Why we’re launching a free UK psychedelic therapist training programme

In recent weeks, much has been made of psychedelic drugs’ potential to redefine mental health treatment. As the sector becomes more visible, major players have started to re-evaluate their traditional roles within the psychedelic research ecosystem.

We’ve seen non-profit organisations like Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) start to conduct clinical studies, an extremely uncommon phenomenon due to the vast amounts of funding required, as well as patient groups such as the Psychedelic Participant Advocacy Network (PsyPAN) influence the design of research processes.

Traditionally, a clinical research organisation’s (CRO) sole role is to action the research it has been commissioned to conduct. However, in a sector full of unknowns and firsts, where the necessary infrastructure is being established in real-time, a CRO has significantly more potential. Clerkenwell Health is on a mission to realise this potential, by redefining what a CRO can offer, and becoming a hub for innovation.

Discover how Clerkenwell Health is developing a gold standard for psychedelic care

As an emerging sector, psychedelic drug development faces a number of bottlenecks, and at Clerkenwell Health we don’t wait for others to solve problems, we tackle them head on.

The UK is fast becoming a central hub for psychedelic research thanks to the conducive regulatory environment brought about by post-Brexit sovereignty, which is attracting business and boosting innovation. Increasing numbers of psychedelic companies are moving their clinical operations to the UK, thus increasing the demand for psychedelic specialty therapists.

A major issue within the psychedelic research ecosystem is the lack of therapists able to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapy, which is an essential component to maximise the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.

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With drugs now progressing to the later stages of development, clinical trials will require the delivery of psychedelic-assisted therapy at a much larger scale, increasing the demand for therapists even further. If sustainable ways of meeting this demand are not developed now, there will be serious capacity problems when these drugs hit the market.

Due to a lack of evidence showing which therapy model works with psychedelics most effectively, there are currently no standardised training opportunities provided by an independent body such as British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Limited therapy training opportunities exist, and those that do fail to fully consider the realities of the health system or the therapists who want to specialise in psychedelic therapy. Although some training programmes are offered by drug developers, it does not equip therapists to work across different compounds or disorders, whilst training run independent of developers can be expensive and time-consuming, making training accessible only to those who can afford the time and financial commitment. The situation, if it continues, will fail to create a workforce ready to deliver suitable psychedelic-assisted therapy at the scale required.

At Clerkenwell, our concern is that expensive programmes qualify therapists irrespective of their capabilities. That’s why we have designed a training programme that is free, disease- and compound-agnostic and minimises the time to commit for those interested to participate.

Our programme uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a model that already has a solid evidence base and is practiced within the health system. This ensures the therapy aspect of psychedelic-assisted therapy is easily adopted by mainstream healthcare systems through medical and regulatory buy-in, which is vital for widespread patient access to these treatments.

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ACT seems to work effectively with psychedelics and using them together can maximise the therapeutic outcomes of both the therapy and the drug. Therapists can also keep their skills fresh by practicing ACT without psychedelics and are therefore more readily available to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapy post-marketing approval.

Scaling up psychedelic-assisted therapy is not an easy task, but one that is necessary for its successful adoption in the psychedelic research ecosystem. It’s time for the excitement of developing new psychedelic drugs to mature into developing delivery infrastructure, starting with the workforce.

As a CRO, Clerkenwell Health can help facilitate this process by paving the way for standardised certified training and acting as the cement that supports the psychedelic research ecosystem for different actors to build on. By investing in, innovating, and operating a centre of excellence for psychedelic-assisted therapy right in the heart of Europe’s most vibrant psychedelic research ecosystem, we can become the go-to partner for drug developers, regulators, and researchers who want to fundamentally change the face of mental health care.

Arda Ozcubukcu
Communications associate
Clerkenwell Health

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Opinion

Five things to know before taking psychedelics

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Transform Drugs releases book: How to regulate psychedelics

Therapist Jo Dice discusses some key points that you may want to know before taking psychedelics. 

Trust your instinct

Is your body telling you telling you: “something is not right here”?  Does it feel like the wrong time for you? Is the guide being inappropriately flirtatious towards you? 

Are you wondering whether it might be a bad idea heading into the jungle on your own? (N.B. it most definitely is!) Do you feel like you are being pressured into something you are not ready for? Does your guide seem to have little knowledge of what this medicine does to your body, or little interest in what medical conditions you may have? Or do you just feel uneasy in your gut with no logical explanation?

These are all signs that you may be putting yourself at risk.

When you work with psychedelics you are in an incredibly vulnerable state. You need to be with a guide you trust wholeheartedly.

Don’t put guides or shamans on a pedestal. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. When you put someone on a pedestal you turn off your intuition. Your guides are not angels, gurus, saints or holy messengers with magic powers. They are just normal human beings who can hold a ceremony. They are subject to the same problems as the rest of us, including the darker aspects of the human experience such as the potential for greed, manipulation and exploitation.

There can be a temptation to give all your power away to the mystical and the transcendent. Our brains do a very good job of working stuff out and keep us safe. Do not devalue this aspect of yourself, be discerning.

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Be on the lookout for spiritual bypassing

Spiritual bypassing is a term to describe the tendency within spiritual communities to rise above the difficulty of unresolved personal problems or emotions. Rather than using spiritual philosophy as a method of integrating human experience, it is used to transcend (or avoid) problems.

Spiritual bypassing is pervasive within the spiritual and psychedelic communities.

Ever heard comments such as “everything happens for a reason”, or “it is all as it is meant to be”? 

These are all bypassing statements. When these statements are used towards a person who has experienced abuse or trauma, you are essentially gaslighting that person, and stunting them in their healing process. Transcending your emotions may alleviate suffering, but it does not represent true healing. Like the addict who takes a drug to soothe their emotional pain, many people use spiritual bypassing as a numbing and avoidance strategy.

So, you may come across a guide who tells you to “let go of control” when you ask about what a substance will do to your body. This is more likely because they don’t know the answer to your question and don’t want to find out, than it is in relation to your healing. Maybe a guide informs you “there’s no such thing as a bad trip”, that is really for you to decide. Though often borne out of naivete and good intention, these are all potential ways for people to escape taking responsibility and manipulate you.

The difference between a poison and a medicine is largely related to dose

There can be a tendency within the psychedelic world to “go hard or go home”, with many guides administering enormous doses for fear that their customers will complain about not having an intense enough experience.

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For some people, especially those new to this work, the dose is way too high and can lead to a terrifying and traumatising experience. Don’t be afraid to have conversations about the dose, and to test the water with a low dose first. Everyone reacts differently to these substances. If you have a terrifying experience, you will probably never want to take psychedelics again and may get PTSD or mental health problems as a result.

You can turn a psychedelic medicine into a psychedelic poison by taking too much in one sitting, you can also do this by having the accumulation of lots of sittings in too short a time frame. People who have an addictive process can get addicted to the peak psychedelic experience, jumping from one to the next without integrating and essentially “overdosing”. This can cause enormous damage to your mental health and relationships, like any addiction.

Taking psychedelics won’t always give you the answers

Sometimes working with psychedelics can make your life worse.

Psychedelics have been described by Stanislav Grof as “non-specific magnifiers of mental process”. So essentially, they will magnify a part of you that is already there. If you are already heading down a spiritual bypassing route (see above), this part of you can be magnified, leaving you open to abusive and predatory people. If you have strong narcissistic tendencies, your narcissism may be magnified causing damage to your relationships.

For some people, there is such a thing as a bad trip. Many people have been known to spiral into psychosis, PTSD and severe mental illness after working with psychedelics. There is some truth in the often-used statement that even a difficult experience can hold meaning when worked through well, but sometimes the scales tip and a person needs serious psychiatric care. Working safely, and conscientiously, with experienced, responsible practitioners and a robust preparation and integration process, will safeguard you from this.

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Integrate

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: integration is everything!

People who take psychedelics often give no thought to the integration process. I view it like alchemy, you need the hydrogen of the psychedelic experience, plus the oxygen of the integration process to create the life force of water. If the psychedelic experience represents giving birth to the new you, then the integration process is the work of parenting.

Put simply, integration is the work you do over a long period of time to manifest deep and sustained change from your psychedelic experience. It is not a panacea, quick fix or a magic bullet that will fix all your problems overnight (this doesn’t exist by the way). Your learnings from the psychedelic experience will dissipate very quickly without integration.

Psychedelics are an agent of change; they don’t do the work for you. The psychedelic experience is one event in a much longer change process. For best results, you must be willing to engage in the process and dive deep.

A psychedelic integration therapist can support you through this process. As you need a guide for the psychedelic journey, you will also get the best outcome by having a guide for your integration process.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for information only and does not substitute medical advice. I do not advocate the illegal use of substances.

This article was first published on jodicetherapy.co.uk and is republished on Psychedelic Health with permission.

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Opinion

The devastating risk of irresponsible psychedelic use in an ADHD world

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The devastating risk of irresponsible psychedelic use ADHD

ADHD seems to be the diagnosis du jour nowadays. In our culture of constant information, fear and communication overload, it is no surprise. This is not how we as human beings are supposed to be living.

And so, the individual is pathologised because of the sickness in society. Not so long ago we were spending most of our days roaming around in fields, interacting with our tribes on a face-to-face basis, coming together regularly to share and be in connection. Things were relatively simple in terms of the amount of information and sensory input we had to digest. 

We did not feel responsible for the whole world’s problems, because we were unaware of them.

Circumstances change; the world is changing at an extremely fast pace. As human beings, our genetics are not able to keep up with this pace. We are evolving quicker than our genes can cope with, much quicker.

So, how does this relate to psychedelics?

Psychedelics have been known to connect people to the earth, to nature and to their core emotional self. When dumped in the middle of an ADHD, modern, hectic and digitalised lifestyle, I believe the risks of adverse incidents are devastating. Devastating for the individual and devastating for the world of psychedelic healing.

Society at large will almost certainly blame the psychedelics for any adverse events, without taking a glimpse at the lifestyle of the person involved.

Whatever is going on for you in the time before your psychedelic journey, will manifest in the experience. So, watch a horror film the night before, the likelihood is you will have a horrifying experience. Completely stressed out with work or toxic relationship dynamics; you will have a stressed out and toxic experience.

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These experiences are massive – akin to getting married, having a baby or losing a parent; they can hold a similar level of significance in your life. 

When prepared for and integrated appropriately, they can have profound and transformative healing potential, like nothing you have ever experienced. When engaged with in a frivolous fashion, they can have dire consequences to yourself, and to the culture at large.

Psychedelics when used responsibly are very low risk; it is irresponsible use that is almost always the cause of problems.

Take some holiday time before your journey, switch off from the modern world and go nomadic for a while. Stop inputting, or at the very least take control over what you are allowing in. Ideally, no television, social media, reading, hyper-communication or other people’s ideas. 

I would advise this for a minimum of five days before your experience, and to start winding down two weeks before. If you can’t do this, just do your best. Instead, start outputting; your own ideas, creativity, journalling, art, music. Get out in nature, see what comes up and who you are when you are not engaging with other people’s ideas.

The work begins when you enter the preparation process, you begin to journey within yourself, connect with the medicine, and you start to feel. You can really solidify and honour your intentions during this time.

You do not necessarily need lots of psychedelic experiences, you may just need one experience done well. This, I believe, may be the safest and most conscientious way to engage in this work.

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There may be a time that you wish to come back and have another experience, but step off of the “more, more, more, bigger, better, faster” treadmill of the Western and modern world, and do it when it feels right; when you have done everything you can to integrate your last experience and you are truly ready.

Try to preserve this nomadic and conscientious way of being, for as long as possible. Your brain is incredibly neuroplastic post-psychedelic experience, so it is a fantastic time to lay down the foundations of new healthy habits and to read things that inspire you, as your brain is adaptable to change.

Stay off social media and away from comparing your life to the superficial and fake glamour of others, or getting into arguments with people who don’t care for you.

Take control of your world, take control of your environment and take control of your people.

Develop a daily practice of meditation, breathwork or prayer. Find people who you can speak to who are interested and open-minded. People who understand this work. Go to therapy, this can transform your integration process. Find a therapist who understands the spiritual emergence and psychedelic process.

The integration process, when done well, never really ends. It is a continuous unfolding of the new you, and it can be a joy to engage in. You will feel discombobulated at times as you adjust to the person you are becoming and grieve for what you have lost. This is normal. It is very important to stay grounded, keep on with the mundane tasks of being an ordinary human being and not to get lost in the mystical and the transcendent.

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And maybe, you will decide to live your life in a simpler fashion, maybe you will choose to disconnect from the ADHD world we inhabit and look after your mind and body instead; to treat yourself in the same way a good mother or father would treat an overstimulated infant.

This is the journey of self-care, growth and evolution, or perhaps devolution. Life is a journey, and you are the only guide who can truly give yourself the medicine that you need.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for information only and does not substitute medical advice. I do not advocate the illegal use of substances.

This article was first published on jodicetherapy.co.uk and is republished on Psychedelic Health with permission.

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Opinion

Why ketamine should be a first line of defence for mental health conditions 

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The role of belief in ketamine as a treatment for depression

As the mental health crisis continues to escalate, those suffering from mental health issues are seeking new solutions to combat PTSD, depression, anxiety, trauma and other conditions. 

For many, psychedelic medicines have brought new hope and have proven to be more effective than traditional pharmaceutical medications which often come with adverse side effects and only treat symptoms. Instead of being viewed as a last-ditch effort, psychedelic medicines, and specifically ketamine therapy, should be considered as a first line of defence.

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Merging the healing benefits of ketamine with healthy lifestyle practices can help provide a full mental reset. Treatments typically last under one hour and ketamine’s near immediate and profound therapeutic effects can last anywhere from days to weeks. 

While it varies per person, six treatments provide a true and enduring healing effect for most people, with remarkable improvements typically reached by the fourth session.

What is ketamine?

The only federally legal psychedelic compound in the U.S. (FDA approved since the 1970s as a general aneasthetic), ketamine is one of the safest and least toxic aneasthetics on the market. It is the number one peadiatric choice for sedation of children. 

On the World Health Organization’s list of ‘Essential Medications,’ ketamine is now considered the biggest breakthrough for mental health treatment in more than 50 years. 

In fact, ketamine is now a major model for future psychiatric drug development, highlighted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for its unmatched ability to treat PTSD. 

What does ketamine treat?

Ketamine can treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, addiction and more. 

There are many benefits of ketamine therapy, such as taking back control of your life, experiencing freedom to make choices with a clear mind, leaving the past behind and venture into a bright future, general improvement of mood, and increased mental wellbeing. 

It can also provide the ability to “let go” of trauma, discover a new sense of self, find happiness, gain increased resilience to stress, break free from harmful and obsessive cycles, discover a sense of balance, enjoy increased quality of life and relief from pain, and become the best version of yourself. 

Ketamine helps interrupt patterns of tormented moods, thoughts and behaviours, allowing people to create newer, healthier and more enjoyable patterns in their lives.

How does ketamine work?

Ketamine physically remaps and restructures the neural pathways in the brain, which causes neuroplasticity or new neuron connections in the brain, and it turns on receptors in the brain that create dopamine. 

Ketamine binds to receptors in the brain that increases the amount of the neurotransmitter glutamate that is released. This sets off a chain of reactions within the brain that affects thinking and emotional regulation.

Simply put, the brain reacts to ketamine in a way that triggers hormones that help create feel-good emotions. This effect also occurs quickly after a person receives their treatment, but some people may need several treatments before they experience the highest level of benefit.

According to experts at Harvard Health, ketamine can also improve physical health. For example, ketamine infusions are known to reduce the body’s signals for inflammation and improve communication with the brain. There is still more to learn about ketamine’s general health benefits for cells, activating mTor pathways that anti-aging researchers focus on, and helping the brain grow new connections, neurons and dopamine receptors. 

Ketamine’s potential to treat brain diseases, pain, inflammation and auto-immune conditions is just now being discovered and the future looks bright.

Ketamine can be administered in a number of ways including intravenous infusion (IV), intramuscular injection (IM), intranasally, orally, and sublingually (as a dissolving troche or lozenge). Each route varies in the onset of action (time), bioavailability (absorption), and clearing time and also varies for each person. 

Spiritually, how does ketamine work?

Ketamine, like other psychedelics, works as a gateway to the unconscious mind — but it’s not a true psychedelic. It is a dissociative that can result in profound psychedelic experiences. Ketamine is known to cause mystical experiences which can lead to a sense of oneness and reveal the sacredness of all things. 

Current research is bringing more of an understanding of how these elevated states of consciousness can be used to create happier, more joy-filled lives. Ketamine therapy’s approach is meant to heal the mind, body, and soul. Current research shows over 80% of ketamine therapy participants have a “significant spiritual” component to their experience. 

To ignore patients’ ability to connect with their spirituality through ketamine therapy would be short-sighted, as spirituality reveals itself to be such an integral part of wellbeing.

How does ketamine differ from antidepressants?

Common antidepressants that can take several weeks to take effect, as they increase the number of neurons. However, ketamine can result in behavioural changes immediately by increasing the activity of restructured neural pathways. 

Aside from working more quickly and with far fewer doses than conventional antidepressants, ketamine works on a different receptor, Glutamate, which exists in greater quantity in the brain than serotonin and other less prevalent neurotransmitter receptors which most psychiatric medications focus on. Ketamine is truly revolutionising the psychiatric medication paradigm.

What are the outcomes of ketamine therapy?

In just a few short sessions, ketamine therapy can help those suffering from mental health conditions to get on track to healing. It can replace years of talk therapy in just a few treatments. Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, which often just treat the symptoms and have negative side effects, ketamine is not a mask or a band aid. It gets to the root cause of the suffering. It doesn’t just treat the symptoms, but instead gets to the underlying issues.  

While common to find relief as soon as their first session, significant improvements are typically seen by the fourth session, and the greatest, most enduring results are usually seen with no more than six sessions in total. In our clinic, fewer than one out of eight patients find the need to extend their initial treatment beyond six treatments. 

No patients need to continue treatment for months at a time. The enduring benefit of ketamine leads few patients, approximately 25%, to seek some form of additional treatment (usually 1-3 sessions) over the 18-months following their initial treatment. 

Compared to less effective medications which need to be taken daily, the lasting relief ketamine therapy provides is often more attractive than the traditional ongoing medication treatments typical in mental health care.

What you should know about ketamine clinics

As ketamine clinics are becoming more commonplace, how do you choose the right one?

Receiving ketamine therapy in a safe, supervised environment is key. Be sure to look for a clinic or provider that specializes in ketamine. Ketamine-trained nurses, therapists and medical professionals should be present. First-hand experience of the medicine is ideal, so finding a clinic with knowledgeable and experienced professionals can lead to better outcomes for the individual.

Integration is key. Implementing new habits and pairing ketamine with talk therapy/integration therapy, education, a treatment plan, and psychiatric consultations, as well as meditation and breathwork, is integral for the best possible outcome.

With ketamine therapy, there is hope and there is help.

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Psychedelic Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. We do not provide medical advice or promote the personal use of psychedelic compounds. Please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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