Prince Harry said psychedelics helped his grief. Here’s what you need to know.
“People in our study often spoke of feeling stuck and detached from the people around them and unable to move on,” Dr Woolley said. The psilocybin “seemed to help them move on, loosen up, and start to engage more with life.”
Another study published in 2020 by Spanish researchers found that 39 bereaved adults who participated in ayahuasca ceremonies at a retreat center in Peru reported a decrease in the severity of their grief, and these benefits lasted at least a year. Researchers wrote that people using ayahuasca to process grief “described emotional confrontations with the reality of death, reviewing biographical memories, and an encounter with the deceased.”
While these results are promising, both studies were small and did not include a control group to compare the effects of psychedelics versus a placebo or another drug. The majority of participants in the ayahuasca study also said they expected to benefit from the experience, which may have impacted the results.
There is stronger evidence that psilocybin may be helpful in treating depression, including trials comparing the drugs’ effectiveness to standard antidepressants. Similarly, MDMA, which is sometimes classified as a psychedelic, has been shown to be effective in treating PTSD. Some researchers believe that because prolonged grief shares many similarities with depression and PTSD, psychedelics may also be useful in treating it.
Dr O’Connor said that given the way scientists think psychedelics work in the brain to treat depression, it’s conceivable that the drugs could also be helpful for people suffering from prolonged bereavement. However, she cautioned against using the drugs to deal with grief that had not been diagnosed as prolonged or complicated.
“I wouldn’t say it’s appropriate to intervene with something as mind-altering, as dramatic, as psychedelic therapy if a person is, in fact, recovering as one would expect.” , said Dr. O’Connor. . “Which means I’d worry that you might be doing more harm than good and it just isn’t necessary.”
Experts also pointed out that recreational experimentation with drugs is not the same as using them in a controlled therapeutic environment. After trying psychedelics in both settings, Prince Harry echoed that sentiment. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he said he would ‘never recommend people do this recreationally’, but that in the right context, meds worked ‘like medicine’ to help him deal with his grief. and his trauma.
Dani Blum contributed report.
Sound produced by Kate Winslet.
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