Can Psychedelic Therapy Work for Treating Comorbidities of Addiction and Mental Illness?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery December 20, 2023

Can Psychedelic Therapy Work for Treating Comorbidities of Addiction and Mental Illness?

The Buddha said, “In separateness, lies the world’s great suffering. In unity, lies the world’s true strength.” When it comes to comorbidities of addiction and mental illness, there can be no “separateness.” They must be diagnosed, addressed, and treated in unison. This is the ultimate way to heal at the cellular level. A newly resurfaced form of therapy can help make this healing happen: psychedelic therapy.

The Prevalence of People With Comorbidities of Addiction and Mental Illness

Many people don’t realize how common comorbidities of addiction and mental illness actually are in the U.S. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “The coexistence of both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, known as a co-occurring disorder, is common among people in treatment. People with mental illness are more likely to experience a substance use disorder than those not affected by a mental illness.” Also, “According to SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.”

Now, these statistics also may be skewed and underrepresented because many people with co-occurring disorders of addiction and mental illness are not properly diagnosed. This can happen for many reasons, but perhaps the most common is that one disorder’s symptoms will often overshadow another. For example, someone with an anxiety disorder and substance use disorder (SUD) may be diagnosed with one or the other but not both.

The reason for this isn’t that symptoms of both are not present; it is merely because many of the symptoms “co-occur,” and if not throughout, a diagnosing doctor can miss that there are multiple issues. In the previous example, both people with SUD and anxiety can display nervousness, bouts of depression, sleeplessness, and isolating tendencies. So, to discover both issues, one must go further than an initial inquiry. One has to get to the root/core causes of why an individual is struggling, and that is where comorbidities can be determined to exist.

The Importance of Treating the Comorbidities of Addiction and Mental Illness at the Same Time

There is a reason that discovering and diagnosing co-occurring disorders is so important. If they are not detected together and early, there is a much higher chance that the disorder that goes untreated will eventually trigger the treated disorder out of “remission.” When it comes to addiction and mental illness, this can trigger a relapse.

Many people also don’t realize how common relapses are among people in the U.S. Also, relapses have become somewhat accepted as commonplace in today’s society. 

This is a very dangerous trend. According to the clinical write-up, Addiction Relapse Prevention, by Doctors Guenzel and McChargue, “Individuals recovering from various forms of addiction frequently encounter relapses that have gained acceptance as an almost inevitable part of the recovery process. However, the normalization of relapses can reduce the urgency for providers, patients, and support individuals to prevent them from occurring. Countless individuals lose their employment, families, freedom, and even lives as a consequence of relapses.” 

Doctors Guenzel and McChargue also illuminate that “Many studies have shown relapse rates of approximately 50% within the first 12 weeks after completion of intensive inpatient programs that often last 4 to 12 weeks or more and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.” One of the reasons for these relapse rates is poor diagnoses.

Another reason for these relapse rates is that people are not getting the type of individualized and comprehensive addiction and mental health care that they require. Many people are being treated with broad overarching recovery plans that don’t take individual factors like dual diagnoses into account. They also don’t utilize all of the available therapies that have been shown to be effective at treating addiction, mental illness, and comorbidities involving both. Some of these therapies are psychedelic therapies.

What Is Psychedelic Therapy?

Psychedelic therapy is not something that is necessarily new. It just happens to be gaining more acceptance as of late. Now, there are many reasons for this. One is that people are starting to see the medicinal benefits of certain psychedelics rather than solely as “illicit” substances. Another is that there continue to be many studies coming out that show psychedelic therapies to be highly effective at treating issues of addiction and mental illness.

According to the article, Psychedelic Medicine: A Re-Emerging Therapeutic Paradigm, “In clinical research settings around the world, renewed investigations are taking place on the use of psychedelic substances for treating illnesses such as addiction, depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since the termination of a period of research from the 1950s to the early 1970s, most psychedelic substances have been classified as ‘drugs of abuse’ with no recognized medical value. However, controlled clinical studies have recently been conducted to assess the basic psychopharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy of these drugs as adjuncts to existing psychotherapeutic approaches.” Many of these studies have shown exceptional results.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, “[In 2019, an] online survey of over 300 people with Alcohol Use Disorder reported reducing or abstaining from alcohol use after taking a psychedelic drug such as psilocybin, LSD, or DMT. This study adds to growing evidence for supporting further investigation of psychedelic-assisted treatment for alcoholism or substance abuse.” Another type of psychedelic therapy that is showing its promise and efficacy is ketamine therapy.

What Is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine therapy is a psychedelic therapy that shows exciting and significant statistics regarding how it is helping people with addiction and mental health issues. It is also one of the more regarded psychedelic therapies being utilized today.

Take alcohol use disorder (AUD), for example. According to the 2022 article, Ketamine for the Treatment of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Comprehensive Systematic Review, “One study examined ketamine in combination with aversive therapy approaches that aim to establish negative links between alcohol consumption and alcohol’s detrimental effects. It was reported that 70% of participants in the ketamine group remained abstinent for 1 year compared with 24% of participants who received aversion therapy alone. A subsequent study compared in-patients who selected KAP [ketamine assisted psychotherapy] versus conventional psychotherapy reported 12-month abstinence rates of 66% for the ketamine group compared with 24% of controls.”

Similar promising results were found regarding other issues of addiction and mental health. Promising statistics were found when ketamine therapy was used for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cocaine use disorders, opioid use disorders (OUDs), eating disorders (EDs), and many more mental health issues. A similar promise has been found when studying psilocybin therapy.

What Is Psilocybin Therapy?

Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences also reported that “[in 2016], in a small double-blind study, Johns Hopkins researchers report that a substantial majority of people suffering cancer-related anxiety or depression found considerable relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin – the active compound in hallucinogenic ‘magic mushrooms.’” Many other studies have found efficacy in psilocybin therapy in other avenues of addiction and mental illness. For a long time, psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms, “shrooms,” and buttons) was disregarded only as a “street drug.” 

This overshadowed its safety and very real therapeutic potential. According to the 2021 article, The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin, “Of all psychedelic drugs, psilocybin is reported to have the most favorable safety profile. Despite the lack of studies investigating the comparative efficacies of psilocybin and psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, the vast evidence-based data that exist for psilocybin alone suggest that psilocybin may be the most efficacious psychedelic drug for treating such disorders.” Now, the efficacy of this therapy goes up exponentially if it is utilized in tandem with other types of therapies, such as surf therapy, horticulture therapy, yoga, infusion therapy, and nutrition therapy.

The Benefits of Nutrition Therapy for Addiction and Mental Illness

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have little doubt about the importance of nutrition when it comes to recovering at the cellular level. This is why one will often hear us say “Food is medicine.” However, it is not just that food is medicine. It is also that bad food is detrimental. This has to do with a focus on nutrients and anti-nutrients.

According to the peer-reviewed article, New Approaches to Nutritional Therapy, “A paradigm shift in nutritional sciences is underway. Nutrigenetics/nutrigenomics, the study of the relationship between gene expression and nutrition, proposes that disease can be prevented and reversed by drastically altering the nutritional environment,” and “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most Western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. In order for food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods.” This is why only healthy (gut microbiome-focused) food is offered here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

However, just because food must be nutritious for optimal healing, does not mean that it needs to be either bland or exciting. Here at Exclusive Rehab, we have world-class chefs who prepare all of our nutritious, local, and organic foods to order every time. They are also able to accommodate any personal dietary preferences such as vegetarian or vegan requirements. Now, when we say “local” foods, we really mean it. We actually grow some of our food right on our luxury 30-acre property. Also, not only do we grow it, but we also utilize it as an opportunity for individuals to engage in the highly beneficial practice of horticulture therapy.

The Benefits of Horticulture Therapy for Addiction and Mental Illness

Horticulture has been used as a form of therapy for thousands of years. It simply did not have the “therapy” moniker attached to it. That has all now been changed, especially as people continue to discover the benefits that horticulture therapy has to offer. There is even a journal dedicated entirely to the therapy: the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture.

According to the article, Why Camp? Evaluating The Impact of a Horticulture Therapy Camp for Adolescents With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, “With roots as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, horticultural therapy has evolved into an effective set of practices useful with diverse populations. Horticulture therapy techniques have demonstrated positive results, from the enrichment of cognitive functioning for children and older adults to improvements in self-esteem for adolescents and the enhancement of quality of life for people with serious and persistent mental illness. With growing evidence for the potential of horticulture therapy programs to target cognitive, psychological, social, and physical needs, this milieu offers the disability community an opportunity to pursue multiple goals.”

There are even more specific benefits of horticulture therapy that have been reported. According to the 2020 article, Horticultural Therapy Program for People with Mental Illness: A Mixed-Method Evaluation, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… It could help people reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability… [Also] it could increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and quality of life.”

Also, horticulture therapy is very unique at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. Utilizing the incredible ecosystem of Hawaii’s Big Island, Exclusive Hawaii Rehab’s property is lined with citrus and fruit trees, vegetable boxes, pineapple patches, and guava bushes. All of these have been planted and nurtured by clients who were in the process of healing at the cellular level. Also, horticulture therapy is not the only type of therapy that benefits from the location of Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. There is also a wholly unique culture of surf and surf therapy.

The Benefits of Surf Therapy for Addiction and Mental Illness

A mere 15-minute walk from our luxury 30-acre property sits one of the greatest surf breaks on the Hamakua Coast: Honoli’i. At Honoli’i, individuals can engage in some of the best surfing in the world while also getting all of the benefits that surf therapy has to offer, of which there are many.

According to the journal Frontiers In Psychology, “Surf therapy has also been found to be associated with significantly lower post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms (at both the conclusion of therapy and 30 day follow up), increases in positive affect, and decrease negative affect, anxiety, and depression. A review of the existing literature on surf therapy concluded that for youth in need of psychological support, outcomes following surf interventions included increases in self-concept, emotion regulation, social competencies, and social connections, as well as decreases in behavioral problems and depressive symptoms.” Surf therapy is yet another effective therapy to add to a comprehensive plan that includes psychedelic therapies.

Psychedelic therapies help individuals reconnect to their internal selves. This reconnection then allows for individuals to reframe how they interact with the world around them. Now, this includes how they eat (nutritional therapy), how they engage with nature (horticulture therapy), and how they participate in physical activities (surf therapy).

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have one primary purpose: to help those struggling with addiction and mental illness get back on their feet and fully recover. We use all of the means and modalities at our disposal to make that happen. This includes psychedelic therapies.

We believe that anyone can recover with the right help and support. This is because we have seen it happen more times than we can count. The Buddha also said, “They are able, who think they are able.” Many people struggling with addiction and mental illness forget this fact. Not only do we make it our mission to remind them that they are ready and able, but we show them that it can be done.

Psychedelic therapies like ketamine therapy and psilocybin therapy have been shown to be particularly effective in treating alcohol use disorder (AUD), substance use disorder (SUD), and mental illness. These psychedelic therapies can help reduce cravings, quell mental obsession, and help with the lack of spiritual fulfillment often associated with AUD and SUD. They also offer opportunities to get to the underlying root/core issues of many addictive behaviors. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or comorbidities of both, we can help get you on the path to successful long-term recovery. For more information on the benefits of psychedelic therapy, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.