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      Peak experiences and the afterglow phenomenon: When and how do therapeutic effects of hallucinogens depend on psychedelic experiences?

      1 , 2 , 3 , 1 , 4

      Journal of Psychopharmacology

      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          Interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances has recently resumed. During an early phase of human psychedelic research, their therapeutic application in different pathologies had been suggested, and the first evidence for efficacy was provided. The range of recent clinical applications of psychedelics spans from cluster headaches and obsessive-compulsive disorder to addiction and the treatment of fear and anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illness, indicating potentially different therapeutic mechanisms. A variety of approaches in psychotherapy emphasize subjective experiences, such as so-called peak experiences or afterglow phenomena, as differentially mediating therapeutic action. This review aims to re-evaluate earlier and recent concepts of how psychedelic substances may exert beneficial effects. After a short outline of neurophenomenological aspects, we discuss different approaches to how psychedelics are used in psychotherapy. Finally, we summarize evidence for the relationship between subjective experiences and therapeutic success. While the distinction between pharmacological and psychological action obviously cannot be clear-cut, they do appear to contribute differently from each other when their effects are compared with regard to pathologies.

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          Most cited references 144

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          A randomized add-on trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant bipolar depression.

          Existing therapies for bipolar depression have a considerable lag of onset of action. Pharmacological strategies that produce rapid antidepressant effects-for instance, within a few hours or days-would have an enormous impact on patient care and public health. To determine whether an N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptor antagonist produces rapid antidepressant effects in subjects with bipolar depression. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover, add-on study conducted from October 2006 to June 2009. Mood Disorders Research Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Patients Eighteen subjects with DSM-IV bipolar depression (treatment-resistant). Subjects maintained at therapeutic levels of lithium or valproate received an intravenous infusion of either ketamine hydrochloride (0.5 mg/kg) or placebo on 2 test days 2 weeks apart. The Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale was used to rate subjects at baseline and at 40, 80, 110, and 230 minutes and on days 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, and 14 postinfusion. Change in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale primary efficacy measure scores. Within 40 minutes, depressive symptoms significantly improved in subjects receiving ketamine compared with placebo (d = 0.52, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28-0.76); this improvement remained significant through day 3. The drug difference effect size was largest at day 2 (d = 0.80, 95% CI, 0.55-1.04). Seventy-one percent of subjects responded to ketamine and 6% responded to placebo at some point during the trial. One subject receiving ketamine and 1 receiving placebo developed manic symptoms. Ketamine was generally well tolerated; the most common adverse effect was dissociative symptoms, only at the 40-minute point. In patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression, robust and rapid antidepressant effects resulted from a single intravenous dose of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist.
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            Psilocybin induces schizophrenia-like psychosis in humans via a serotonin-2 agonist action.

            Psilocybin, an indoleamine hallucinogen, produces a psychosis-like syndrome in humans that resembles first episodes of schizophrenia. In healthy human volunteers, the psychotomimetic effects of psilocybin were blocked dose-dependently by the serotonin-2A antagonist ketanserin or the atypical antipsychotic risperidone, but were increased by the dopamine antagonist and typical antipsychotic haloperidol. These data are consistent with animal studies and provide the first evidence in humans that psilocybin-induced psychosis is due to serotonin-2A receptor activation, independently of dopamine stimulation. Thus, serotonin-2A overactivity may be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and serotonin-2A antagonism may contribute to therapeutic effects of antipsychotics.
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              Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation after a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.

              Suicidal ideation is a medical emergency, especially when severe. Little research has been done on pharmacologic interventions that could address this problem. Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-asparate antagonist, has been reported to have antidepressant effects within hours. We examined the effects of a single dose of ketamine on suicidal ideation in subjects with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD). Thirty-three subjects with DSM-IV-diagnosed MDD received a single open-label infusion of ketamine (0.5 mg/kg) and were rated at baseline and at 40, 80, 120, and 230 minutes postinfusion with the Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI), the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and the Beck Depression Inventory. The study was conducted between October 2006 and January 2009. Suicidal ideation scores decreased significantly on the SSI as well as on the suicide subscales of other rating instruments within 40 minutes; these decreases remained significant through the first 4 hours postinfusion (P < .001). Ten subjects (30%) had an SSI score ≥ 4 at baseline; all these scores dropped below 4 (9 dropped by 40 minutes and 1 by 80 minutes). For those patients with a starting score below 4 on the SSI, only 1 reached a score of 4. Depression, anxiety, and hopelessness were significantly improved at all time points (P < .001). Suicidal ideation in the context of MDD improved within 40 minutes of a ketamine infusion and remained improved for up to 4 hours postinfusion. Future studies with ketamine in suicidal ideation are warranted due to the potential impact on public health. clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00088699. © Copyright 2010 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Psychopharmacology
                J Psychopharmacol
                SAGE Publications
                0269-8811
                1461-7285
                February 09 2015
                March 2015
                February 09 2015
                March 2015
                : 29
                : 3
                : 241-253
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany
                [2 ]Neurocomputation and Neuroimaging Unit, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany
                [3 ]Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Germany
                [4 ]Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
                Article
                10.1177/0269881114568040
                25670401
                © 2015

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