Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.


Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.


Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.


However, psychedelics are significantly abused.


One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.


The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.


Mental Health Mood Disorders Personality Disorder Recovery Self-Care

Mental Health is Mental Wealth

When someone suffers from mental illness, there is a deprivation of the joy and emotional wealth that’s present when there is ideal mental health. Mental illness can drain our joie de vivre, and make for a muddy emotional existence. Relationships with loved ones tend to be difficult, and there tends to be a propensity for loneliness and isolation. Worse yet, when mental illness is left untreated, the toll it can take on the one suffering and their loved ones can be taxing and sometimes devastating.


Some types of mental illness are more straightforward in their treatment: anxiety and depression, for example, are often treated with various modalities of psychotherapy and balanced with medication. Personality disorders are complex and there are some instances where the patient doesn’t recognize their illness despite their deep suffering. The work involved in treating all mental illness requires a nexus of therapeutic support and a desire for positive change from the patient themselves. The question many have is, Why are personality disorders so challenging?


Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters:

  • Cluster A personality disorders are “characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are:  paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder
  • Cluster B personality disorders are “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Cluster C personality disorders are “characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.


Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for all types of mental illness; the most efficacious modality is determined by the needs of the client. Findings show that DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) in particular is the most effective therapeutic treatment for personality disorders and bipolar disorders. Other effective tools used in treatment may include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Neurofeedback


To date, the FDA hasn’t approved of any medications to treat personality disorders. However, medications are often used to treat symptoms that are detrimental to the individual’s recovery. Medications like:


  • Antidepressents: for depressed mood, anger, irritability, mood swings, impulsivity and hopelessness.
  • Mood stabilizers: to even out mood swings, and to reduce impulsivity, irritability and aggression.
  • Antipsychotic medications (also known as neuroleptics): if symptoms include losing touch with reality (psychosis), and sometimes anxiety and difficulty with anger
  • Anti-anxiety medications: For anxiety, agitation or insomnia. Note, in some cases, they may increase impulsive behavior and are avoided with some personality disorders.


Treating mental illness requires the cultivation of balance. Participation from the client, a cohesive treatment team, and the correct combination of medication can create the desired environment of mental health.  It takes work, dedication, and a willingness to unveil one’s difficulties in order to create a healthy shift toward mental health. I have experienced the shadow side of untreated mental illness with family members who are unwilling to get help. It does, in fact, take a toll on everyone involved. I have learned that one of the key pieces for my own recovery is developing clear communication skills, creating firm, compassionate boundaries, and building consistent program of self-care. Families struggling with mental illness need to ensure that their own wells are filled, that they are getting their own needs met, and that they have a community of support around them.


A Working Definition of Recovery

SAMHSA recently provided mental-health professionals a working definition of

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

The impetus behind this definition was to create something that reflects the “common elements of the recovery experience for those with mental disorders and/or substance use disorders.” While this is certainly a more clinical definition of what recovery is, it remains a valuable foundational reference for professionals working in the mental health and substance abuse fields.


SAMHSA’s Principals of Recovery look like this:

  • Person-driven;
  • Occurs via many pathways;
  • Is holistic;
  • Is supported by peers;
  • Is supported through relationships;
  • Is culturally-based and influenced;
  • Is supported by addressing trauma;
  • Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
  • Is based on respect; and
  • Emerges from hope.


 SAMSHA also identifies four major domains that support recovery:

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.


As we work with families, guiding young adults through the process of recovery, all of these references are embedded in the treatment plans we outline and the activities and groups we facilitate. Part of the recovery process helps distill the unhelpful belief that we are damaged goods and unworthy of a healthy life of recovery. It clears the clouded perception that drugs and alcohol nullify one’s discomfort and provides a bird’s eye view into the benefits and bounty of clean living. It is truly liberating not to hide behind the veils of mental illness and/or addiction. The process of recovery guides us toward the potentiality of that liberation and frees us from the bondage of self.


There will be difficult times, beautiful times, times where you think you might not make it or times that you might feel invincible. This is life, and recovery allows us to weather life’s rollercoaster ride in a healthier way. Recovery teaches us resilience. It teaches us that we can fall down, dust ourselves off and get back up again. It shows us that we are human, fallible, imperfect, and magnificent. Recovery teaches us that we are enough.


Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Study: Physical Punishment Affects Mental Health

Recently, the Journal of Pediatrics published a report investigating the correlation between childhood physical punishment and adult mental health.  While it’s widely accepted that severe forms of physical punishment have a detrimental effect on one’s mental health, there remain to be few studies “examining the relationship between physical punishment and a wide range of mental disorders in a nationally represented sample.” This study specifically examined the effects of “harsh physical punishment” in subjects who had not endured severe forms of punishment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, exposure to intimate partner violence) and marks the beginning of more research into this issue.

In the mental health communities, we are painfully familiar with the negative impact of the aforementioned episodes of severe physical punishment and with the fact that physical punishment of any kind continues to be a controversial subject among parents. There always has been a firm line drawn between those who spank and those who don’t. It’s not uncommon to see a raised eyebrow coming from one camp or the other when a child misbehaves, begging the age-old question of whether or not to spank. There’s a lot of judgment on both sides of this issue. The more important question is: Do spanking or harsh physical punishments have a long-term, negative affect on a child’s mental health? And is there a mental-health fallout weaving its way into one’s adulthood?

The study positively concluded that “harsh physical punishment” is connected to mental health issues later in life, even if there is no evidence of persistent abuse or neglect present. Common afflictions include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and/or dependence, and personality disorders.

Frankly, I would love to see a consensus of parents finding better, more loving ways in which to communicate with their children. Spanking might feel productive in the moment, but the emotional mark it leaves is deeper than that fading red mark.  There is power in love and compassion, far more than fighting one’s way through life. As an adult who was abused as a child, I can tell you from first-hand experience: my life was negatively impacted, and it did taint my adult life–but not so much so that I will carry the legacy of abuse into my own family. It’s not worth it.

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