Psychedelic Therapy Could Ease Anxiety from Climate Change

Is that dark cloud of worry you carry around eco-anxiety, and could ketamine help?

Climate change is leading to an increase in anxiety disorders called eco-anxiety and climate grief. 

But psychedelics could help, The Washington Post reports

Eco-anxiety is characterized by chronic worry about the future of the planet. It can be trickier to treat because it isn’t always about one’s personal life but something that affects the whole planet. For some, eco-anxiety is fueled by worry for future generations. Others have anger towards the government or fear about how it will affect their future. “How can I decide where I want to go? Will it even be safe to live in California when I’m older?” one patient told The Washington Post

While many people may have such worries, these thoughts become eco-anxiety or climate grief when they start to disrupt daily life. 

And for some, it is a personal experience in daily life that leads to anxiety, like PTSD. “Many of my patients have been affected by long stretches of wildfire smoke exposure and have experienced mental fogginess and irritability because of poor air quality or post-traumatic stress disorder related to wildfire evacuations,” Emily Willow, MD, writes in The Washington Post. Dr. Willow is a board-certified psychiatrist, researcher, educator, and advocate for psychedelic medicine. She is the founder of the ClearSight Center in San Francisco.

While such horrific environmental experiences and resulting anxiety can lead to positive changes such as increased activism, distress from any mental health conditions can make life more difficult. 

However, the increased psychedelic research and therapy for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression could also lend a helping hand to those experiencing climate grief. MDMA is on the fast track to becoming the big name in treating PTSD. Ketamine, which is technically a dissociative anesthetic with psychedelic properties, is also used off-label to treat depression and PTSD. Then, of course, there is psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in shrooms, which also shows an impressive ability to tackle similar mental health conditions. 

Psychedelic therapy could have a unique place when it comes to eco-anxiety. A 2019 study suggests that people who underwent just one psychedelic experience reported a heightened sense of connection with nature. This sensation, in contrast with bustling city life, can foster a feeling of connectivity with the planet, reminding one that they are part of something greater. These experiences can also reveal the transient nature of life and our planet, in addition to the permeance of life beyond our individual lives. If all that sounds trippy, it’s because it is and contains themes that anyone familiar with psychedelics understands all too well. While such insight can offer spiritual healing, the lines between medicine and what some may call magic are merging. 

“In my clinical practice, patients using oral ketamine plus psychotherapy have experienced breakthroughs and new insights when working with the intention of navigating eco-anxiety,” Dr. Willow writes. “Many patients said they felt connected to a sense of oceanic oneness, reminding them of the meaningful interconnectedness of their lives with others and offering context for their personal narrative.”

If you’ve been reading this, thinking about how divided our country is culturally, and wondering if conservatives know that mainstream newspapers like The Washington Post are writing about the benefits of using psychedelics to treat an anxiety disorder induced by climate change, they know. And they find it as ridiculous as one would imagine. If you’re interested, FOX penned a summary that actually does a decent job of following the journalistic rule of “show, don’t tell.” While it doesn’t directly say that they find the whole thing ridiculous, you can read their response for yourself, and the vibe and voice will show you. 

One quote that the FOX response called out was Dr. Willow’s honesty that “psychedelic therapies are not for everyone. There are medical and psychiatric contraindications, and they vary depending on the type of psychedelic medicine being considered. If you’re interested in psychedelic therapy, check with your doctor to determine if they are an appropriate option for you.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, here at High Times, we do a pretty good job of showing that we’re in favor of following psychedelic medicine to see its medical benefits as new research unfolds while also noting that these “new” benefits aren’t original at all, simply science finally catching up to psychedelic and indigenous cultures. However, even we must agree that everyone is different, and as a result, everyone’s course of treatment varies regarding treating mental health conditions such as eco-anxiety. 

Dr. Willow stressed the importance of recognizing that psychedelic therapies may not be suitable for everyone. Depending on the specific psychedelic medicine in question, there can be various medical and psychiatric reasons why they might not be advisable, such as medication interactions or a predisposition towards “bad trips.” For non-psychedelic options for calming eco-anxiety, Dr. Willow suggests reading Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power by Buddhist scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy and physician Chris Johnstone. Macy also addresses such issues in her YouTube video, “Climate Crisis as a Spiritual Path,” capturing the essence of our current environmental challenges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts