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How Psychedelics Treat Depression

How Psychedelics Treat Depression

The key to treating depression is recognizing the symptoms and seeking immediate care from a mental health professional. Once diagnosis has happened, a doctor will prescribe treatment for depression and other mental health disorders, possibly focusing on a combination of in-patient or out-patient therapy and medicine. Thanks to legitimate research, the smart money may be on medicines like ketamine and other psychedelics. If you or someone you know is depressed, contact a mental health professional today.

Depression and the Potential of Psychedelics

Symptoms like anger, sadness, irritability are all signs of depression but may not be diagnosed or treated until it’s too late. Nearly 15 million American adults every year report symptoms associated with depression, signifying the need for reliable, high-quality, and affordable treatment options. People have suspected – known – for thousands of years that plant medicines with psychedelic properties (ex. peyote, san pedro, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine) have medicinal value, and research from the past 60 years has proven that more than ever.

As reported by Scientific American after a study on rats:

Ketamine—a powerful anesthetic for humans and animals that lists hallucinations among its side effects and therefore is often abused under the name Special K—delivers rapid relief to chronically depressed patients, and researchers may now have discovered why. In fact, the latest evidence reinforces the idea that the psychedelic drug could be the first new drug in decades to lift the fog of depression.”

Neuroscientist Ron Duman and colleagues of the Yale University School of Medicine suspect that ketamine may stimulate biochemical pathways in the brain that may reverse the effects of depression temporarily. What worked in rats may work in humans, due to the similarities in these biochemical pathways. Ketamine may also work against addiction and anxiety.

Conditions That May be Treated by Psychedelics

Psychedelics like ketamine are the subject of serious academic and scientific study as researchers work to understand how they soothe the symptoms of mental health disorders. There are a number of conditions treatable by psychedelics in controlled situations.

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). No longer restricted to soldiers returning from combat, PTSD symptoms affect millions around the world, leading to anxiety, depression, and other illnesses. Today, the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is in phase 3 clinical trials and has been shown to be statistically significant in treating people with PTSD.
  • According to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, test participants who were autistic and suffering from anxiety greatly benefited from the use of MDMA. MDMA works by suppressing activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for anxiety and fear. 
  • FDA-cleared clinical trials have shown that MDMA provides positive outcomes in participants with anxiety and depression as a result of life-threatening conditions. The drug may instill feelings of calmness and trust in patients, but researchers believe more widespread testing is required.
  • Alcohol addiction was the subject of a first-ever trial using MDMA by British researchers in 2017. The Guardian newspaper reported positive results for treating the addiction, possibly caused by injuries, when combined with psychotherapy.

As Long as Psychedelics are a “Controlled Substance” …

Psychedelics have a long and proud place in human history, with their first recorded use dating back more than 3,500 years. Their use came to the forefront of media and popular culture in the late 1960s in America, during the height of the conflict in Vietnam. Public tide turned against psychedelics, to the point where the U.S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 to reign in drug use.

“The Controlled Substances Act is the statute establishing federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of certain substances is regulated, per this and other sources.

Mushrooms Bloom and Psychedelics Boom

As far as a culinary delicacy is concerned, mushrooms – a fruity type of above-ground fungus that blooms in the fall – are pretty popular. According to, mushrooms are ingested by U.S. consumers at the rate of nearly four pounds per person per year. Interestingly enough, a kind of fungus known as a psilocybin mushroom or “magic mushroom” is equally popular when ingested for its psychedelic use. 

How popular are psychedelics? According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, very popular. The 2010 U.S. population survey found there to be 32 million lifetime psychedelic users in America age 12 and older.

Final Thoughts

What’s becoming clearer is a groundswell of support is building for the widespread acceptance of psychedelics as a treatment for mental health disorders. Once that support comes to a head, public pressure on lawmakers will likely result in legal use, just as it has with marijuana. Of course, some psychedelics including ketamine, dispensed via infusion therapy, are already used to treat depression and other mental illnesses, but more research is still required for complete validation.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the symptoms of depression, we would like to invite you to give us a call to learn more about the clinical use of ketamine.

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James T. Leathem, DO

Dr. James Leathem is a board-certified anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He was born and raised in Connecticut and graduated from Florida Southern College with a bachelor of science in marketing management with minors in sociology and communications. He obtained his medical degree from Midwestern University’s Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency in anesthesiology at Michigan State University and its affiliated McLaren Greater Lansing Hospital.

In 2015, after residency, Dr. Leathem returned to Arizona to practice anesthesiology. He joined Red Mountain Anesthesiologists and worked primarily at Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa, performing 100% of his own cases. He was made partner in the group after demonstrating 3 years of anesthesia excellence and administering over 4,000 anesthetics. In 2019, a corporate change occurred and an opportunity presented itself in which he was able to transition out of the hospital to surgery center and clinic-based anesthesia.

Dr. Leathem realizes that the only constant in life is change. In 2020, amidst the global pandemic, his career took a different direction. This change led him to collaborate with Dr. Wong and Dr. Sharma and they founded Advanced Wellness and Pain (AWAP). Their mission is to provide a variety of state-of-the-art procedural services that improve patients’ quality of life and overall physical and mental well-being.

Dr. Leathem believes that we are all a work in progress and that each day, one should strive to make positive changes in their life. He is here to help empower each patient on their journey to be their best self and live their best life. When you are being cared for by Dr. Leathem, you can be assured that he will give you his undivided attention and time.

Gregory Wong, MD

Dr. Wong is a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of both the American Society of Anesthesiology and the Arizona Society of Anesthesiology. He did his undergraduate training at the University of California at Davis, Davis, California; doctorate training at The University of Health Sciences of the Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, IL; and his post-doctoral training at the Integrated Program at the University of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ. He has spent his whole 24-year career practicing in Arizona.

Dr. Wong grew up in the Bay Area of California. He is married and is raising three daughters. At the early age of 12 years old, he knew he wanted to become a physician. His love of the human spirit, intrigue of human physiology, and compassion for human suffering led him to the path of anesthesiology and pain medicine.

Today, Dr. Wong realizes patients need a holistic biophysical-mental-spiritual care. This philosophy has brought him to the studies of regenerative medicine and infusion therapies. He has firsthandily witnessed the overwhelming success of these therapies for treating chronic pain and depression and the return of patients of “life-functionality.”

“There has never been a time more important than now to advocate for our patients in these difficult times. We owe it to our patients to offer these state-of-the-art treatment modalities that weren’t available before.”

Deepak Sharma, MD, MBA

Dr. Sharma is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He completed three degrees at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA: a Bachelor in Finance, a Master in Business Administration, and a Doctor of Medicine. He went on to complete residency at the Mount Sinai Morningside-West Hospital System in New York, NY and post-graduate fellowship at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA.

Dr. Sharma is committed to treating his patients as a whole with a comprehensive biophysical-mental-spiritual approach. He is a lifelong learner and is constantly researching cutting-edge therapies backed by scientific studies. He has taken a particular interest in regenerative and infusion therapies after witnessing firsthand their significant benefits on those suffering from chronic pain and depression. In his free time, Dr. Sharma enjoys spending time with his family and friends, hiking, traveling, reading, and meditation.

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