February 21, 2022

Psychedelic therapy under anesthesia?

Can anesthesia have similar effects to psychedelic therapy? Dr. Kaveh explains how anesthesia can interact with the mind in some surgeries to offer similar experiences. Importantly, these experiences can help patients gain control over their minds and bodies to improve their mental health.

Psychedelic therapy under anesthesia?

Psychedelic therapy may improve depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and other serious mental health conditions. But what happens to your body under anesthesia, and can you have psychedelic therapy under anesthesia?

What is anesthesia like?

General anesthesia is a reversible medical coma, where you're entirely unconscious. But there are many different levels of anesthesia and many different anesthesia medications. Consciousness varies drastically based on the depth of anesthesia and the specific medications used. So while general anesthesia is very deep (but still ripe with powerful potential) there are other forms of anesthesia that can offer powerful experiences to help mental health conditions.

Psychedelic therapy can be powerful against treatment resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and other mental health conditions. But can anesthesia and surgery offer similar benefits?
What is anesthesia, and can it provide psychedelic therapeutic benefits?

Is anesthesia like psychedelic therapy?

Some anesthetics have powerful psychedelic potential, like ketamine, making them powerful options during the stress of surgery to reduce anxiety and fear.

However, anesthesia is different than typical psychedelic therapy because patients may have:

  1. Intense anxiety and fear in anticipation of surgery
  2. Deep trust in their anesthesiologist who will guide them through the surgical journey
  3. Powerful, psychoactive IV medications (anesthetics) that can put them in a powerful, suggestible mindset

The anesthesia triad can treat severe mental health conditions, like psychedelic therapy

Because of these three elements, anesthesia can be a powerful stimulus to help patients heal themselves.

Intense anxiety, trust, and finely tuned anesthetic medications are a powerful recipe to self healing

How do psychedelic therapy and anesthesia stimulate self healing?

One model of mental health is rooted in the barriers imposed by cognitive rigidity. There can be many other root causes to mental health conditions, but there is likely much overlap. Regardless of the contributing factors, nurturing a flexible, compassionate mindset is a powerful tool in the self healing journey.

And this is where the powerful triad of anesthesia can help stimulate my patients' self healing potentials. Psychedelic therapy and anesthesia do indeed have overlap.

The operating room offers a unique experience, and that can be used to stimulate self healing, similar to what is seen in psychedelic therapy. This can be incredibly helpful for numerous mental conditions well led by a trained physician
Psychedelic experiences can happen under anesthesia in the operating room

So being under anesthesia can have similar effects to psychedelic therapy?

Yes, in the right conditions, anesthesia can provide powerful experiences to help stimulate your healing potential.

Anesthesia can provide psychedelic therapeutic benefits, but it depends on many factors

It depends on the type of surgery, the type of anesthesia technique, and the type of anesthesia medications used. It also depends on your doctor and their ability or willingness to guide you through the experience.

Mental health treatments without psychedelic therapy or anesthesia are possible

To be clear, these experiences can also be forged without medication assistance! This is one of the incredible capacities of the human mind. It does take much work, and our medical system is not often equipped to guide patients through these processes without pharmaceutical assistance. The observation that such psychedelic experiences, and their health benefits, is possible without medications, is incredibly empowering to my patients!

However, patients suffering from severe depression, anxiety, or suicidality, for example, may not be candidates for this long journey of self-exploration, and this is where they may be a strong role for medication assistance.

That psychedelic experiences are possible even without medications is inspiring to my patients!

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