Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a CNN Original six-part docuseries going around the world, as well as a podcast covering a range of topics.
On Tuesday, November 8 on season five, episode eight of the podcast Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and CNN commentator dove into the world of psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental conditions.
Gupta will be exploring the role of psychedelics in medicine for the whole season: “This season on Chasing Life, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes listeners beyond the basics of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch to explore unique sensory experiences,” the summary reads. “Discover why psychedelics might change your worldview, how animals perceive differently than humans, and how biases in taste might impact the future of food production.” A previous episode last week explored a synthetic version of psilocybin.
The psychedelic renaissance taking place in the world of medicine is impossible to ignore. Gupta invited “Nick” and “Janet” on the show—two people who had just experienced a ketamine-assisted therapy session at a retreat. The two people attempted to describe the experience and dissociation.
“They are part of a growing number of people who are taking so-called psychedelics,” Gupta said after they spoke. “You know them as ketamine, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA. The goal is to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and PTSD. Now, most of the compounds are still tightly regulated by the US DEA, so the legal use of them is limited to research studies usually done at academic or medical centers. The anesthetic ketamine, though, at the moment is the only exception.”
The FDA’s approval of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression in 2019 is one example of how it’s being embraced at the federal level.
“Ketamine is a FDA-approved medication. It has a wide range of uses at sub-anesthetic doses,” replied Dr. Meera Garcia, who is recognized for her exceptional work as a clinician. “It is really a great adjunct to psychotherapy, as well as modalities in which people can work through their traumas.”
“That’s Dr. Meera Garcia,” Gupta replied. “She runs the ketamine-assisted therapy retreat that Nick and Janet attended.”
The show also explored art and music created under psychedelics.“How does a psychedelic impact one’s perception of the world and their senses?” Gupta asked. “Yeah, that’s one of the big places that you see profound alterations in consciousness is that our perceptions and when you think of the psychedelic artwork in that time, you know, things like songs like ‘Revolution Number Nine”’ by The Beatles.” He then played some of the distorted sounds.
Gupta’s fascination with psychedelic-assisted therapy dates back several years. On September 1 2014, Gupta interviewed Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Founder Rick Doblin, Ph.D., and Acid Test author Tom Shroder about past and present research into the benefits of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. “Almost from the day of its discovery, psychiatrists have been fascinated by the properties of LSD and similar drugs, often called psychedelics,” Gupta said at the time.
Gupta Goes from Medical Cannabis to Medical Psychedelics
Gupta got involved with medical cannabis reform under the Trump administration. Repeatedly, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was criticized after taking office when he said “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and vowed to crack down on it. Gupta took a patient but informed approach to tackling people with old-school views about pot.
In 2018, Gupta Dr. wrote an open letter to Sessions about cannabis and began it by admitting that he did not always support medical cannabis from the get-go. And he also explained how it took years of research to convince the doctor. He explains, “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes it is the only thing that works.”
Perhaps Gupta’s patient approach to debunking stigma surrounding cannabis can also be applied to psychedelics.