Q: You write about mental illness, "Few things are worse than one’s own mind attacking them,” and, "it is certainly a barrier to maintaining healthy habits." Can you talk about depression in your life?
JM: Addressing my mental health issues and addressing my depression was paramount to the whole journey in becoming healthy. It’s all intertwined. There’s this stigma with mental health and depression. People don’t want to talk about it. If I can just do a small part in breaking that stigma then I’m happy to do that. I started recognizing my depression in high school and it continued into medical school. Going to medical school put my depression on steroids, so to speak.
Q: Getting though medical school is not easy?
JM: You’re under all this stress and you’re constantly surrounded by mortality. You’re constantly dealing with situations that are enough to depress anybody. That and my physical health started deteriorating while I was in school and it created the perfect storm to leave me in the worst place. I had to tackle that. If you suffer from depression or if you know someone that does you might be familiar with a story.
Maybe the story is they go and get some medication and they’re supposed to wait and see. The medication does't work, so they change the medication and they wait and see some more. Then, they add another medication and wait and see again. They change the dose of the medication and wait and see. There are so many people that are suffering because of this model of psychiatry. That model frustrates the hell out of me because I do feel there’s a better way. There’s this emergence in psychiatry of the use of psychedelic substances. Right now, ketamine is the one readily available to the public and that’s what I talked about and hinted about in my blog. Other psychedelic substances that can help people with depression; mushrooms, LSD, iowaska and ketamine. A lot of people think these are club drugs because people abuse them in clubs. Ketamine was originally developed as an anaesthetic but it has tremendous results in removing depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and chronic pain.
Q: You’re saying it’s okay to explore non traditional treatment methods like psychedelics?
JM: The statistics say at least a third of people, if not more, are not getting relief from traditional psychiatry. There’s a huge subset of people that suffer from treatment resistant depression. About half of these people respond to ketamine and they get better. That’s huge. Psychiatry hasn’t had anything new in it’s tool bag for many decades. In the sixties, there was the original psychedelic movement, where they started looking into these substances. Albert Hoffman developed LSD and also isolated the enzymes produced and secreted, the active proteins, from psychedelic mushrooms. There were researchers along with him working hard to use these substances in psychiatry. Then the war on drugs began and their work got shut down. It’s just now reemerging, which is very exciting, because there are a lot of people who are going to get help. Traditional psychiatry has failed them. If traditional psychiatry hasn’t failed you then that’s awesome. There are drugs that work for people but so many others are taking medications that don’t work. There aren’t other fields of medicine where we accept this. We don’t put someone on medication for diabetes and say, “Hey, this might work or this might not work and it might actually make your condition worse.” In psychiatry we have compromised because we feel limited by the toolset. What I want to advocate is that the toolset is expanding and there are new substances being used that are powerful healing tools.
Q: How did psychedelics work for you?
JM: What I actually did was go to a ketamine clinic and get an IV into my arm. I received a ketamine injection over about a 40 minute period. I did this about a dozen times over the course of nine months. At one point, I felt like I didn’t need them anymore. I felt like I was seeing the world through this new lens and that I’d been suffering for long. I wasn’t suffering anymore. That’s the greatest gift I’ve been given on this plan. When you’re getting a ketamine infusion your senses are heightened, which happens with a lot of psychedelic substances. So music might sound different, things might look different, pillows feel softer, blankets feel extra soft. Those things are interesting but what’s more interesting is what occurs in the mind. You sort of feel this connection to the universe. You can feel peace. I use ketamine sessions and therapy to examine dark things. I thought about life traumas. I thought about depression and suicidal thoughts, anxiety and panic attacks. I took advantage of the fact that while you’re on ketamine, and this is what’s so exciting, the brain becomes neuroplastic and mouldable. As you age, the connections in your brain neurons become less flexible. When you’re on these substances the neuroplasticity increases in your brain and you can form new connections and you can sever old ones, which is what I think is really key to the success of these treatments. If there are pathways that have been wired for decades that have led you down the path of having anxiety attacks or depressive episodes you can get rid of them. The neuroplasticity that occurs with ketamine? They're just starting to understand it. It’s new stuff. It’s exciting. While your brain is neuroplastic and forming new connections it's a great time to ramp up the exercise. I was already going to the gym and losing weight. I had lost a little over a third of my total weight before going on ketamine. I started focussing on my physical health while focussing on my mental health. I really solidified these new pathways I was forming. Everyone is different. Pain is super complex and human beings are all differen. What’s really exciting about ketamine is that I have seen many patients walk into a ketamine clinic acutely suicidal, having plans to end their life, and have walked out without that being the case. There's nothing else in psychiatry at the moment that has that sort of immediate transformative ability. Everyone is different but there is an immediate release aspect to getting these infusions that is not the case with another tools in psychiatry right now.
Q: Any last thoughts?
JM: Yes, if you’re depressed please keep fighting. That is my most important message to you. Keep fighting. I’ve been in some dark places in my life that I thought I couldn’t possibly get out of. I never thought I’d ever be sitting as happy as I am today. I wake up every day excited and grateful to live my life instead of feeling like it’s a struggle or chore. That’s really what it felt like when I was depressed. Please keep fighting. Don’t give up hope. There are many ways you can tackle mental health.
Q: Dr Jaclynn Moskow, our guest today, she lost an entire person, 105 pounds, in her battle with depression. You have to check out the blog at jaclynnmoskow.com. She can be found on twitter at @JaclynnMoskow.
JM: It was great talking to you.
Dr Moskow Thank-You!
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