New research explores whether therapeutic psychedelics can solve ‘biophobia’
A recent review article published in Health Psychology explores how the calming properties of nature-based environments coupled with the therapeutic administration of psychedelics have the ability to heighten our relationship with nature as well as improve mental well-being.
“Therapeutic psychedelic administration and contact with nature have been associated with the same psychological mechanisms: decreased rumination, improved psychological connection, and elevated states of awe and transcendent experiences – all processes related to improved mental health in both clinical and healthy populations,” the researchers say. authors of the research, led by Sam Gandy of the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London.
Despite its benefits, the feeling of being connected to nature is declining in modern societies as fear of nature (biophobia) is on the rise.
“There are huge inequalities in access to natural settings and opportunities to connect with nature,” says Gandy. “The overuse of electronic entertainment technology, particularly among young people, appears to be fanning the flames of disconnection from nature. Biodiversity loss is also an issue, with the UK seen as one of the regions the world’s poorest in nature.
A review of existing research suggests that therapeutic psychedelics and greater contact with nature may be effective in treating certain psychological disorders. For example, studies have shown that engaging with nature can reduce stress and depression. Other studies suggest that psychedelics can help with major depression and existential anxiety resulting from, for example, a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Researchers theorize that psychedelics and contact with nature improve psychological well-being via feelings of connection. For example, people who harbor strong feelings of disconnection or isolation are more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders, bipolar personality disorder, and/or depression.
“Besides their safety when used with caution, psychedelic therapy shows great promise in treating otherwise intractable conditions such as major depression, existential anxiety, addiction, and PTSD,” says Gandy. “Overall, existing traditional treatments tend to be insufficient to treat these conditions.”
The researchers go on to explain how administering psychedelics in a natural setting can benefit mental well-being due to its ability to elicit feelings of awe.
“The experience of awe encompasses the encounter with vastness that transcends one’s current frame of reference,” says Gandy. “It’s linked to the feeling of experiencing something much bigger than oneself, with the identification of a ‘small self’.”
A question for future research is how to combine the benefits of therapeutic psychedelics and contact with nature in a manageable way.
“Natural settings are inherently unpredictable and more uncontrolled than the much more tightly controlled and secure clinical setting,” says Gandy. “In a clinical setting, it’s not possible to take people out into nature at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that elements of nature can’t be brought into the clinical space when administering therapeutic psychedelics.
Researchers would also like to see more effort devoted to studying the effects of therapeutic psychedelics on subclinical and healthy populations.
“I think it would be good to see more work on psychedelics beyond just the mental health treatment model – perhaps exploring their potential for influencing creativity and for the well-being of healthy people. health,” says Gandy.
A full interview with Sam Gandy discussing his new research can be found here: How psychedelics can help with certain mental health issues