OPEN Foundation

E. Vermetten

Psychedelic Treatments for Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis of Patient Experiences in Qualitative Studies

Abstract

Introduction: Interest in the use of psychedelic substances for the treatment of mental disorders is increasing. Processes that may affect therapeutic change are not yet fully understood. Qualitative research methods are increasingly used to examine patient accounts; however, currently, no systematic review exists that synthesizes these findings in relation to the use of psychedelics for the treatment of mental disorders.

Objective: To provide an overview of salient themes in patient experiences of psychedelic treatments for mental disorders, presenting both common and diverging elements in patients’ accounts, and elucidating how these affect the treatment process.

Methods: We systematically searched the PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase databases for English-language qualitative literature without time limitations. Inclusion criteria were qualitative research design; peer-reviewed studies; based on verbalized patient utterances; and a level of abstraction or analysis of the results. Thematic synthesis was used to analyze and synthesize results across studies. A critical appraisal of study quality and methodological rigor was conducted using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP).

Results: Fifteen research articles, comprising 178 patient experiences, were included. Studies exhibited a broad heterogeneity in terms of substance, mental disorder, treatment context, and qualitative methodology. Substances included psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ibogaine, ayahuasca, ketamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Disorders included anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. While the included compounds were heterogeneous in pharmacology and treatment contexts, patients reported largely comparable experiences across disorders, which included phenomenological analogous effects, perspectives on the intervention, therapeutic processes and treatment outcomes. Comparable therapeutic processes included insights, altered self-perception, increased connectedness, transcendental experiences, and an expanded emotional spectrum, which patients reported contributed to clinically and personally relevant responses.

Conclusions: This review demonstrates how qualitative research of psychedelic treatments can contribute to distinguishing specific features of specific substances, and carry otherwise undiscovered implications for the treatment of specific psychiatric disorders.

Breeksema, J. J., Niemeijer, A. R., Krediet, E., Vermetten, E., & Schoevers, R. A. (2020). Psychedelic treatments for psychiatric disorders: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of patient experiences in qualitative studies. CNS drugs, 1-22; 10.1007/s40263-020-00748-y

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[Psychedelics in the treatment of substance use disorders and psychosis]

Abstract

After psychedelics were banned in 1968, the flourishing research on the use of psychedelics in patients with a mental disorder stopped abruptly. Recently, we see a renaissance of this research.<br/> AIM: To present an overview of what is known about the treatment of addiction and psychosis with psychedelics.<br/> METHOD: Literature study based on Medline en PubMed publications till December 2019.<br/> RESULTS: Studies on the effectiveness of psychedelics in the treatment of addiction and psychosis is still very limited in size and methodological quality. Nevertheless, most studies show positive effects of both classical and atypical psychedelics in a variety of addictions on motivation, craving, reduced consumption, and abstinence often following a single dose and with long-lasting benefits (3-24 months). Use of ketamine in patients with a psychosis stabilized on an antipsychotic might reduce negative symptoms.<br/> CONCLUSION: Before psychedelics can be used in standard clinical practice for the treatment of patients with an addiction or a psychosis, larger and methodologically better studies are needed. The use of psychedelics also creates an opportunity to better understand the shared underlying pathology of many different mental disorders.
van den Brink, W., Breeksema, J. J., Vermetten, E., & Schoevers, R. A. (2020). Psychedelics in the treatment of substance use disorders and psychosis. Tijdschrift Voor Psychiatrie62(8), 650-658., https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32816293/
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[Psychedelics in the treatment of PTSD]

Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often a chronic condition, despite the availability of various evidence-based treatment options. Psychedelics offer new treatment opportunities.<br/> AIM: An overview of the current evidence, therapeutic context, and possible mechanisms of action of different types of psychedelics in the treatment of PTSD.<br/> METHOD: A scoping review of the available literature.<br/> RESULTS: MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has shown to produce lasting reductions in PTSD symptoms in multiple RCTs. Based on a small number of studies, ketamine administration appears to lead to temporary symptom relief. Current studies are investigating whether the use of ketamine in combination with psychotherapy can lead to lasting reductions in PTSD symptoms. Classical psychedelics (such as psilocybin and LSD) induce psychoactive effects (on behavior or experience) that could contribute to the psychotherapeutic treatment of PTSD but have not yet been investigated in controlled studies. Reported positive effects extend beyond PTSD symptoms only.<br/> CONCLUSION: Psychedelics may have potential to serve as a catalyst for the psychotherapeutic treatment of PTSD. Most evidence exists for MDMA-supported psychotherapy; relatively little research is available on ketamine and classical psychedelics. Future research needs to show whether the use of psychedelics can be integrated into available treatment options for PTSD.
Vermetten, E., Krediet, E., Bostoen, T., Breeksema, J. J., Schoevers, R. A., & van den Brink, W. (2020). Psychedelics in the treatment of PTSD. Tijdschrift Voor Psychiatrie62(8), 640-649., https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32816292/

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Reviewing the Potential of Psychedelics for the Treatment of PTSD.

Abstract

There are few medications with demonstrated efficacy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment guidelines have unequivocally designated psychotherapy as a first line treatment for PTSD. Yet, even after psychotherapy, PTSD often remains a chronic illness, with high rates of psychiatric and medical comorbidity. Meanwhile, the search and development of drugs with new mechanisms of action has stalled. Therefore, there is an urgent need to explore not just novel compounds, but novel approaches for the treatment of PTSD. A promising new approach involves the use of psychedelic drugs. Within the past few years, two psychedelics have received breakthrough designations for psychiatric indications from the US Food and Drug Administration, and several psychedelics are currently being investigated for the treatment of PTSD. This review discusses four types of compounds: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), ketamine, classical psychedelics (e.g. psilocybin and LSD) and cannabinoids. We describe the therapeutic rationale, the setting in which they are being administered, and their current state of evidence in the treatment of PTSD. Each compound provides unique qualities for the treatment of PTSD, from their use to rapidly target symptoms, to their use as adjuncts to facilitate psychotherapeutic treatments. Several questions are formulated that outline an agenda for future research.
Krediet, E., Bostoen, T., Breeksema, J., van Schagen, A., Passie, T., & Vermetten, E. (2020). Reviewing the Potential of Psychedelics for the Treatment of PTSD. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology., https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyaa018
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