Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

There’s a fine balance between working to live and living to work.

For many people, work is more than just something we do to pay our bills. It can become a calling, a means of fulfillment.

But there’s a difference between being dedicated to your job and being a workaholic.

New research published in the journal PLOS ONE examined the prevalence of workaholism and how often overly dedicated work tactics intersect with symptoms of psychiatric illness.

These include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety.

“Workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than nonworkaholics,” lead researcher Cecilie Schou Andreassen, a clinical psychologist specialist at the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway, said in a press release.

Those more likely to be workaholics, researchers say, include younger, single workers with higher education who are managers, self-employed, or work in the private sector. Women were also more likely to be workaholics.

Examining the Psychiatric Disorders

Researchers used data from 16,426 working people aged 16 to 75 years who completed a series of surveys to gauge their addiction to work and self-reporting inventories about ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression.

Overall, nearly 8 percent of the people surveyed had what researchers would call workaholism, defined as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”

Of those addicted to their work, nearly 34 percent met the criteria for anxiety, almost 33 percent for ADHD, more than 25 percent for OCD, and almost 9 percent for depression.

Those rates were two to four times higher compared to nonworkaholics.

This begs a bigger question: Do workaholics have these underlying conditions and use work as a treatment or does working too hard bring out these disorders?

The prevalence of psychiatric symptoms among workaholics has researchers puzzled.

“Thus, taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues,” Schou Andreassen said. “Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain.”

Still, there’s a chicken-and-egg scenario because these fields may be more appealing to people with certain conditions, namely ADHD. Workaholics, researchers say, may choose positions, jobs, or sectors that allow for day-to-day activities that suit them best. These can include a fast pace, quick deadlines, or changing duties.

Rob Dobrenski, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City who was not affiliated with the study, said he hasn’t noticed a condition-career connection with patients in his practice, but he also says it’s not a bad idea for people with conditions like ADHD or OCD.

“Neither of those conditions have ‘cures’ per se, they are mostly just managed, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the worst scenario to direct people to work that doesn’t exploit those issues,” he told Healthline. “The problem would be pushing people into careers that actually amplify the problem.”

There also could also be other issues at play.

“Individuals with ADHD may have to work harder and longer to compensate for their work behavior caused by neurological deficits. They may also be at risk of taking on projects and tasks impulsively — resulting in more work than they can realistically do within normal working hours,” the study states. “Furthermore, it is hypothesized that these workaholic ADHD types push themselves in their job in order to disprove conceptions of them by others as being lazy or unintelligent.”

In the case of anxiety and depression, researchers say work may act as an escape mechanism.

Dobrenski, author of “Crazy: Notes on and off the Couch,” says in the ideal scenario, work could be a form of therapy by giving people purpose and meaning, a way to contribute to society, or a method to develop self-esteem.

“It can also serve as a meaningful distraction from other difficulties,” he said. “But, like many other things that can be useful, overdoing it has limitations and can serve as a way to not address other important aspects of life, simply because you’ve left no time for those and no longer have the emotional/cognitive energy for them.”

Are You a Workaholic?

The researchers used seven valid criteria when drawing the line between addictive and nonaddictive behavior to determine if a person could be considered a workaholic.

Using a scale of one to five, one being never and five being always, ask yourself if you’ve experienced these scenarios over the past year.
•You think of how you can free up more time to work.
•You spend much more time working than initially intended.
•You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.
•You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
•You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
•You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
•You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

If you scored four or five on four or more of the criteria, sorry, but researchers say your behavior qualifies you as a workaholic.

While more studies are needed on the subject, researchers say physicians should not overlook that a seemingly successful workaholic does not have ADHD-related or other underlying issues that need attention.

“Their considerations affect both the identification and treatment of these disorders,” Schou Andreassen said.

With technology — smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. — providing access to work nearly everywhere, taking some time off from your digital devices can have a therapeutic benefit.

“Everyone should have moments of ‘unplugging,’ regardless of workaholism or not,” Dobrenski said. “But definitely, if you are addicted to your job and technology is even a small part of it, unplugging can give you a chance to catch your breath and reconnect to the real world.”

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/workaholics-may-have-underlying-psychiatric-problems#6

A new study shows the death of newborn brain cells may be linked to a genetic risk factor for five major psychiatric diseases, and at the same time shows a compound currently being developed for use in humans may have therapeutic value for these diseases by preventing the cells from dying.

In 2013, the largest genetic study of psychiatric illness to date implicated mutations in the gene called CACNA1C as a risk factor in five major forms of neuropsychiatric disease — schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All the conditions also share the common clinical feature of high anxiety. By recognizing an overlap between several lines of research, scientists at the University of Iowa and Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University have now discovered a new and unexpected role for CACNA1C that may explain its association with these neuropsychiatric diseases and provide a new therapeutic target.

The new study, recently published in eNeuro, shows that loss of the CACNA1C gene from the forebrain of mice results in decreased survival of newborn neurons in the hippocampus, one of only two regions in the adult brain where new neurons are continually produced – a process known as neurogenesis. Death of these hippocampal neurons has been linked to a number of psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.

“We have identified a new function for one of the most important genes in psychiatric illness,” says Andrew Pieper, MD, PhD, co-senior author of the study, professor of psychiatry at the UI Carver College of Medicine and a member of the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute at the UI. “It mediates survival of newborn neurons in the hippocampus, part of the brain that is important in learning and memory, mood and anxiety.”

Moreover, the scientists were able to restore normal neurogenesis in mice lacking the CACNA1C gene using a neuroprotective compound called P7C3-A20, which Pieper’s group discovered and which is currently under development as a potential therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. The finding suggests that the P7C3 compounds may also be of interest as potential therapies for these neuropsychiatric conditions, which affect millions of people worldwide and which often are difficult to treat.

Pieper’s co-lead author, Anjali Rajadhyaksha, associate professor of neuroscience in Pediatrics and the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Weill Cornell Autism Research Program, studies the role of the Cav1.2 calcium channel encoded by the CACNA1C gene in reward pathways affected in various neuropsychiatric disorders.

“Genetic risk factors that can disrupt the development and function of brain circuits are believed to contribute to multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. Adult newborn neurons may serve a role in fine-tuning rewarding and environmental experiences, including social cognition, which are disrupted in disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders,” Rajadhyaksha says. “The findings of this study provide a direct link between the CACNA1C risk gene and a key cellular deficit, providing a clue into the potential neurobiological basis of CACNA1C-linked disease symptoms.”

Several years ago, Rajadhyaksha and Pieper created genetically altered mice that are missing the CACNA1C gene in the forebrain. The team discovered that the animals have very high anxiety.

“That was an exciting finding, because all of the neuropsychiatric diseases in which this gene is implicated are associated with symptoms of anxiety,” says Pieper who also holds appointments in the UI Departments of Neurology, Radiation Oncology, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Iowa City VA Health Care System.

By studying neurogenesis in the mice, the research team has now shown that loss of the CACNA1C gene from the forebrain decreases the survival of newborn neurons in the hippocampus – only about half as many hippocampal neurons survive in mice without the gene compared to normal mice. Loss of CACNA1C also reduces production of BDNF, an important brain growth factor that supports neurogenesis.

The findings suggest that loss of the CACNA1C gene disrupts neurogenesis in the hippocampus by lowering the production of BDNF.

Pieper had previously shown that the “P7C3-class” of neuroprotective compounds bolsters neurogenesis in the hippocampus by protecting newborn neurons from cell death. When the team gave the P7C3-A20 compound to mice lacking the CACNA1C gene, neurogenesis was restored back to normal levels. Notably, the cells were protected despite the fact that BDNF levels remained abnormally low, demonstrating that P7C3-A20 bypasses the BDNF deficit and independently rescues hippocampal neurogenesis.

Pieper indicated the next step would be to determine if the P7C3-A20 compound could also ameliorate the anxiety symptoms in the mice. If that proves to be true, it would strengthen the idea that drugs based on this compound might be helpful in treating patients with major forms of psychiatric disease.

“CACNA1C is probably the most important genetic finding in psychiatry. It probably influences a number of psychiatric disorders, most convincingly, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” says Jimmy Potash, MD, professor and DEO of psychiatry at the UI who was not involved in the study. “Understanding how these genetic effects are manifested in the brain is among the most exciting challenges in psychiatric neuroscience right now.”

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20160427/Study-reveals-new-function-for-CACNA1C-gene-in-psychiatric-diseases.aspx

By Supriya Venkatesan

At 19, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq. I spent 15 months there — eight at the U.S. Embassy, where I supported the communications for top generals. I understand that decisions at that level are complex and layered, but for me, as an observer, some of those actions left my conscience uneasy.

To counteract my guilt, I volunteered as a medic on my sole day off at Ibn Sina Hospital, the largest combat hospital in Iraq. There I helped wounded Iraqi civilians heal or transition into the afterlife. But I still felt lost and disconnected. I was nostalgic for a young adulthood I never had. While other 20-somethings had traditional college trajectories, followed by the hallmarks of first job interviews and early career wins, I had spent six emotionally numbing years doing ruck marches, camping out on mountaintops near the demilitarized zone in South Korea and fighting someone else’s battle in Iraq.

During my deployment, a few soldiers and I were awarded a short resort stay in Kuwait. There, I had a brief but powerful experience in a meditation healing session. I wanted more. So when I returned to the United States at the end of my service, I headed to Iowa.

Forty-eight hours after being discharged from the Army, I arrived on campus at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. MUM is a small liberal arts college, smack dab in the middle of the cornfields, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru of transcendental meditation. I joked that I was in a quarter-life crisis, but in truth my conscience was having a crisis. Iraq left me with questions about the world and grappling with my own mortality and morality.

Readjustment was a sucker punch of culture shock. While on a camping trip for incoming students, I watched girls curl their eyelashes upon waking up and burn incense and bundles of sage to ward off negative energy. I was used to being in a similar field environment but with hundreds of guys who spit tobacco, spoke openly of their sexual escapades and played video games incessantly. Is this what it looked like to be civilian woman? Is this what spirituality looked like?

Mediation was mandatory for students on campus, and the rest of the town was composed mainly of former students or longtime followers of the maharishi. Shortly after arriving, I completed an advanced meditator course and began meditating three hours a day — a habit that is still with me five years later. Every morning, I went to a dome where students, teachers and the people of Fairfield gathered to practice meditation. In the evening, we met again for another round of meditation. During my time in Fairfield, even Oprah came to meditate in the dome.

I was incredibly lucky to have supportive mentors in the Army, but Fairfield embraced me in a maternal way. I cried for hours during post-meditation reflection. I released the trauma that is familiar to every soldier who has gone to war but is rarely discussed or even acknowledged. I let go, and I blossomed. I was emancipated of the unhealthy habits of binge-drinking and co-dependency in romantic interludes, as well as a fear that I didn’t know controlled me.

Suicide and other byproducts of post-traumatic stress disorder plague the military. In 2010, a veteran committed suicide every 65 minutes. In 2012, there were more deaths by suicide than by combat. In Iraq, one of my neighbors took his M16, put it in his mouth and shot himself. Overwhelmed with PTSD-related issues from back-to-back deployments and with no clear solution to the problem, in 2012, the Defense Department began researching meditation practices to see whether they would affect PTSD. The first study of meditation and the military population, done with Vietnam veterans in 1985, had shown 70 percent of veterans finding relief, but meditation never gained in popularity nor was it offered through veterans’ services. Even in 2010, when I learned TM, the military was alien to the concept.

But today, the results of the studies showcase immense benefits for veterans. According to the journal Military Medicine, meditation has shown a 40 percent to 55 percent reduction in symptoms of PTSD and depression among veterans. Furthermore, studies show that meditation correlates with a 42 percent reduction in insomnia and a 25 percent reduction in the stress hormone cortisol in the veteran population. To complement meditation, yoga has also been embraced as a tool for treatment by the military. With the growing acceptance of holistic approaches, psychological wounds are beginning to heal.

The four-day training course to learn TM is now available at every Veterans Affairs facility for those who have PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Even medical staff and counselors who help veterans at the VA are offered training in both TM and mindfulness meditation. Additionally, Norwich University, the oldest military college in the country, has done extensive research on TM and incoming cadets, and many military installations have integrated meditation programs into their mental health services. When I had first learned to meditate, many of my active-duty friends found it a bit too crunchy. But with the military’s recent efforts at researching meditation and funding it for all veterans, the stigma is gone, and my battle buddies see meditation as a tool for building resilience.

For me, meditation has created small but significant changes. One day, while going for a walk downtown, I stopped and patted a dog. A few minutes later, I came to a halt. I realized what I had done. While in Iraq, during a month when we were under heavy mortar attack, a bomb-sniffing K-9 had become traumatized and attacked me. This, coupled with a life-long fear of dogs, had left me guarded around the canines. I touched the scar on my elbow from where the K-9 had latched on and could no longer find the fear that had been there. Soon I was shedding all the things that held me back from living my life in an entirely unforeseen way.

For the first time in my life, I found forgiveness for those who had wronged me in the past. I literally stopped to smell the flowers on my way to work every day. And I smiled. All the freaking time. I even felt smarter. Research shows that meditation raises IQ. I’m not surprised. After graduation, I went on to complete my master’s at Columbia University.

Fairfield is also home to generations of Iowans who are born there, brought up there and die there. Many of these blue-collar Midwesterners have had animosity toward the meditators. Locals felt as if their town had been overtaken. They preferred steak to quinoa, beers at the bar to yoga and pickup trucks to carbon-reducing bicycles. And with MUM having a student body from more than 100 countries, the ethnic differences were a challenge. However, things are changing. Meditators and townspeople now fill less stereotypical roles. And with the economic boom that meditating entrepreneurs have provided the town, the differences are easier to ignore.

It was strange for me to live removed from the local Iowans. When I went shopping at the only Walmart the town had, I’d see the “Wall of Heroes” — a wall of photos of veterans from Fairfield. One day, I noticed a familiar face — a soldier from my last assignment. Fairfield and other socioeconomically depressed areas are where most military recruits come from. Here I was living among them, but not moving in step with them. Having that synchronous experience made me come back full circle. When I had first learned to meditate, my teacher had asked me what my goal was. I told her, “I want to be in the world, but not of it.” And that’s exactly what I got.

For me, this little Iowan town provided a place of respite and rejuvenation. It was easy for me to trade one lifestyle of order and discipline for another, and this provided me with nourishment and an understanding of self. Nowhere else in America can you find an entire town living and breathing the principles of Eastern mysticism. It goes way beyond taking a yoga class or going to the Burning Man festival. I continue my meditation practice and am grateful for the gifts it has provided me. But in the end, my time had come, and I had to leave. As residents would say, that was just my karma.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/04/06/how-meditating-in-a-tiny-iowa-town-helped-me-recover-from-war/

Older men of European descent (white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group in the United States, including older women across ethnicities and older men of African, Latino, or Indigenous decent, according to research published in Men and Masculinities.

In her latest addition to suicide research, Silvia Sara Canetto, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology at Colorado State University, has found that older white men have higher suicide rates yet fewer burdens associated with aging. They are less likely to experience widowhood, have better physical health and fewer disabilities than older women, and have more economic resources than older women across ethnicities and ethnic minority older men.

Rather than being due to physical aging adversities, therefore, increased suicide rates among older white men in the United States may be because they are less psychologically equipped to deal with the normal challenges of aging; likely because of their privilege until late adulthood, Dr Canetto asserted.
Another important factor in white men’s vulnerability to suicide once they reach late life may be dominant cultural scripts of masculinity, aging, and suicide, Dr Canetto said. A particularly damaging cultural script may be the belief that suicide is a masculine response to “the indignities of aging.” This idea implies that suicide is justified or even glorified among men.

To illustrate these cultural scripts, Dr Canetto examined two famous suicide cases and their accompanying media coverage. The founder of Kodak, George Eastman, died of suicide at age 77. His biographer said that Eastman was “unprepared and unwilling to face the indignities of old age.”

American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson died of suicide in 2005 at age 67, and was described by friends as having triumphed over “the indignities of aging.” Both of these suicides were covered in the press through scripts of conventional “white” masculinity, Dr Canetto stated. “The dominant story was that their suicide was a rational, courageous, powerful choice,” she said in a statement.

Canetto’s research challenges the idea that high suicide rates are inevitable among older white men. Canetto notes that older men are not the most suicide-prone group everywhere in the world; in China, for example, women at reproductive age are the demographic with the highest rate of suicide. This is additional evidence that suicide in older white men is culturally determined and thus preventable.

Dr Canetto’s research shows that cultural scripts may offer a new way of understanding and preventing suicide. The “indignities of aging” suicide script and the belief that suicide is a masculine, powerful response to aging can and should be challenged, Dr Canetto said.

Canetto SS. Suicide: Why Are Older Men So Vulnerable? Men Masc. 2015; doi:10.1177/1097184X15613832.

A new study shows that depressive symptoms are extremely common in people who have obstructive sleep apnea, and these symptoms improve significantly when sleep apnea is treated with continuous positive airway pressure therapy.

Results show that nearly 73 percent of sleep apnea patients (213 of 293 patients) had clinically significant depressive symptoms at baseline, with a similar symptom prevalence between men and women. These symptoms increased progressively and independently with sleep apnea severity.

However, clinically significant depressive symptoms remained in only 4 percent of the sleep apnea patients who adhered to CPAP therapy for 3 months (9 of 228 patients). Of the 41 treatment adherent patients who reported baseline feelings of self-harm or that they would be “better dead,” none reported persisting suicidal thoughts at the 3-month follow-up.

“Effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea resulted in substantial improvement in depressive symptoms, including suicidal ideation,” said senior author David R. Hillman, MD, clinical professor at the University of Western Australia and sleep physician at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. “The findings highlight the potential for sleep apnea, a notoriously underdiagnosed condition, to be misdiagnosed as depression.”

Study results are published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disease afflicting at least 25 million adults in the U.S. Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of other chronic health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression.

The study group comprised 426 new patients referred to a hospital sleep center for evaluation of suspected sleep apnea, including 243 males and 183 females. Participants had a mean age of 52 years. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the validated Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and the presence of obstructive sleep apnea was determined objectively using overnight, in-lab polysomnography. Of the 293 patients who were diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP therapy, 228 were treatment adherent, which was defined as using CPAP therapy for an average of 5 hours or more per night for 3 months.

According to the authors, the results emphasize the importance of screening people with depressive symptoms for obstructive sleep apnea. These patients should be asked about common sleep apnea symptoms including habitual snoring, witnessed breathing pauses, disrupted sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-09/aaos-ctr092215.php

Deep in the Amazon rainforest, a group of veterans chokes down a gritty, gut-wrenching shot of liquid absolution. They try to drink away their severe mental disturbances, but not the way you drink away your ex-girlfriend with a bottle of whiskey. They’re looking for a cure. Their leader: 27-year-old retired infantryman Ryan LeCompte. Their goal: to hallucinate away their terrible memories.

From a few fringe psychiatrists to veterans like LeCompte, there is a budding belief that extreme hallucination can save our brains from themselves. Several organizations, including the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and adventurous doctors around the world test out psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin and ayahuasca for possible medical uses.

Ayahuasca is a devilish brew. It’s made of vines and roots found in the Amazon; drinking it equals a heavy psychedelic experience and profuse vomiting. “As the shapes and colors continued to move about, they sometimes converged to create the face of a woman, who of course I immediately labeled as Aya,” says an ayahuasca user on the underground drug website Erowid. Aya is known as the spirit or soul of the ayahuasca world. LeCompte described having kaleidoscope vision during his ayahuasca trip, and he even began to dance and went to look at leaves and other pieces of the nature around him at points.

Ryan LeCompte is a scruffy former Marine who, today, is studying at the eccentric Naropa University in Boulder. The school was founded by Tibetan Buddhist teacher and Oxford University scholar Chögyam Trungpa and includes schools such as the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The beat poets used to flock to there. It’s a Buddhist-inspired school infamous for attracting people who are looking for an alternative education in an attractive location.

For his part, LeCompte didn’t ever face a PTSD diagnosis during his time in service. But he’s lucky, because many of his peers did. What he did experience still shook him. In 2008, while stationed in 8th and I Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., LeCompte walked into the room of a good friend in his barracks one morning to find Sgt. Jorge Leon-Alcivar dead—a suicide. He was not the only Marine LeCompte encountered who would take his own life. At least 22 veterans kill themselves every day. Leon-Alcivar’s death was the final straw, and three years later LeCompte retired from the Marines to start fighting PTSD. He received his End of Active Service honorable discharge after four years in the Marines and didn’t look back.

LeCompte began traveling to the VA hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was living, to learn what was ailing disturbed veterans and soldiers. He hung around in waiting rooms, cautiously approaching the soldiers, wheedling their stories out. But it didn’t take much persuasion; the men were “so beat,” he recalls, that they opened up to him instantly. This took course over several years, during his free time, while he did contract work building helicopters.

Soon, LeCompte had amassed the information from about 100 cases in Birmingham; Veterans spilled almost everything to him: their meds, their dosages, their choice of therapy. It all added up. Over and over again, he discovered his peers were taking the same types of medicines such Zoloft and Paxil, in the same dosages, 50 to 200mg of Zoloft a day or 20 to 60mg of Paxil a day were common, and with the same form of EMDR therapy. EMDR is a somatic therapy that follows eye movements and dream states.

LeCompte didn’t see anything wrong with the therapy. How about the drugs? Yeah, it’s probably the drugs. LeCompte’s complaints ring of an old story these days in American psychiatry: we’re too drugged up, we’re overdosed and overdiagnosed. It’s a complaint plenty of professionals agree with, but only a handful of psychiatrists are taking alternate routes. “There are some veterans who actually do respond to those meds, but it’s rare,” Dr. Sue Sisley, an expert on PTSD in veterans who has studied treating the illness with marijuana, told ATTN:. “The vets who respond to the standard FDA approved meds like Zoloft or Paxil is probably less than 10 percent. The rest come in looking like zombies.”

LeCompte had tried almost all the drugs they were offering, from “highly addictive anxiolytics like Klonopin, and … Prozac as an anti-depressant and Ambien for a sleep aid,” he said. “These different drugs sort of mixed together in a cocktail just as a recipe for disaster,” he said. He never tried to contact U.S. Veteran’s Affairs to inform them of these problems, because he didn’t think they would do anything about it. VA psychiatrists like Dr. Basimah Khulusi of Missouri have been fired for simply refusing to increase medication dosages that they didn’t think their patients needed shows the kind of system LeCompte was dealing with.

LeCompte looked into how these drugs work and found they’re just mind blockers, they’re not helping you deal with your problems. “Medications do not entirely eliminate symptoms but provide a symptom reduction and are sometimes more effective when used in conjunction with an ongoing program of trauma specific psychotherapy,” according to the VA website.

LeCompte looked at research from people like Julie D. Megler, watched videos of the academic conferences focusing on psychedelics called Psychedemia from Penn State and went on websites like Erowid to look at ayahuasca experiences people had posted to the site. What did he learn? “Something like ayahuasca or MDMA is used to bridge severed connections in the brain that trauma plays a big part in creating,” he said.

“Ayahuasca opens the limbic pathways of the brain to affect the emotional core of the trauma in a way similar to affective psychotherapy for trauma, and also impacts higher cortical areas … to allow the patient to assign a new context to their trauma,” wrote brain experts J. L. Nielson and J. D. Megler, in the book The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca.

Soon, LeCompte started having conversations with veterans and began informing people of the possible benefits of ayahuasca, wondering if anyone else was daring enough to start considering the idea of drinking a shot of psychedelics for their PTSD. LeCompte had never tried ayahuasca, but he was willing to try anything to help his comrades. Eventually he heard of an ayahuasca retreat, the Phoenix Ayahuasca retreat in Peru, where he could test out his medicine.

It took him six months to do what any sane person would do before planning a group outing to South America to hallucinate in a forest together… he started a nonprofit. Its name? The Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy. Other vets started to find him; some were suicidal, exhausted by the daily challenge of deciding whether or not they wanted to be alive. He didn’t know them, but he felt he intimately understood – or at least sympathized with – their minds. He rounded up a trip: five other vets, and him. MAPS helped pay for two of the trips for veterans who couldn’t afford it, and the rest paid for themselves.

The prep was strangely regimented: LeCompte had to ensure the veterans were off their medication for a month leading up to the trip; anti-depressants plus ayahuasca equal a lethal mix. That task amounted to phone therapy and keeping a close eye on everyone: He called the guys every day, even their friends and family, to make sure the men had quit their pills, he said. But he made it work. The families may have thought the idea was strange, but LeCompte says none of them tried to stop their family members because of their knowledge that the drugs weren’t helping treat the PTSD symptoms, and they just wanted to help their family.

The veterans flew into Iquitos, Peru, from Lima – from Iquitos, they sat in a van all the way to the Amazon, winding past motorbikes and rickshaws “on back roads in the middle of bum fuck,” LeCompte says.

Then their lives collided and things got weird.

They were stationed for 10 days at Phoenix Ayahuasca. The camp was little more than a set of huts in the jungle, made from wood and leaves. They would drink the ayahuasca on ceremony nights and be led through their experience by the shaman, and they would stay in their personal huts on days off to reflect on their experiences alone.

LeCompte said the ayahuasca drink “tastes like shit.” The shaman leading the experience dressed in all white scrub-like clothes, like a nurse lost in the jungle. After you drink the brew, the shaman’s job is simply to observe. He diagnoses: Is anyone losing it? Some people have been known to begin convulsing. Is this the moment they need to hear a song that will send them burrowing into a different dimension? “I don’t know how he does it. It’s beyond my rational mind,” LeCompte said. “It” amounts to singing, blowing smoke on trippers’ faces and using instruments like a rattler to change their state of mind.

For his part, LeCompte only wanted two out of the four drink ceremonies, since they were so powerful. It certainly wasn’t about the PTSD for LeCompte; he was trying to get past his experiences of fallen friends and broken relationships. He says just returning home to family and friends from military service or an ayahuasca trip is a difficult experience of its own. “You’re a changed person and there’s no doubting or denying that.”

“Most people get a cut, and they put a bandaid on it,” he said. “These people have had these wounds for so long that they’ve become infected. The infection can’t be fought off with a bandaid.” LeCompte sees ayahuasca as an antibiotic, not a bandaid.

LeCompte is now planning to do an official study to look at how ayahuasca could treat PTSD, which will serve as his thesis for Naropa University. It is being sponsored by MAPS, and it will focus on 12 veterans with treatment resistant PTSD who will try using ayahuasca to treat it. The plan is to conduct the study over 10 days in early 2016. LeCompte is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to fund research and education around the medicinal use of ayahuasca.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2KDuBh/:1EfXhqlsu:Y+0NYw4t/www.attn.com/stories/2301/semicolon-tattoo-mental-health

by John Haltiwanger

As a musical genre, hip-hop is often denigrated for seemingly condoning misogyny, materialism, violence and crime. But this is an unfair characterization and an overgeneralization.

Yes, there are some rap artists who write songs containing nothing of substance. More often than not, however, hip-hop offers many of us an insightful view into a dark world we’re unfamiliar with: the impoverished inner city.

In this sense, hip-hop has the potential to educate and foster empathy.

To borrow from Jay Z:

I think that hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons. Save Martin Luther King, because his dream speech we realized when President Obama got elected.

[Hip-hop] music didn’t only influence kids from urban areas. People listen to this music all around the world, and [they] took to this music.

Once you have people partying, dancing and singing along to the same music, then conversations naturally happen after that.

We all realize that we’re more alike than we’re separate.

Indeed, hip-hop breaches ostensibly impenetrable cultural divides, breeding solidarity among people with disparate backgrounds.

This is precisely why recent albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly have been widely celebrated and even used by high school teachers to teach lessons about race and oppression.

Beyond enlightening people on race, poverty, the War on Drugs and the inner city, it also appears hip-hop has a hidden benefit as a powerful tool against mental illness.

A study from Cambridge University found that hip-hop is extremely effective in combatting depression, bipolar disorder and addiction.

When you think about the themes hip-hop encompasses, this makes a lot of sense. Many artists rap about overcoming numerous obstacles in the ghetto, from gang violence and poverty to drugs and police brutality.

The overall narrative of hip-hop is one of progress. Artists tell dynamic stories of advancing from deeply oppressive environments to living out their wildest dreams.

Fundamentally, the message of hip-hop is one of hope.

Thus, hip-hop has the effect of “positive visual imagery,” helping people see the light when the whole world feels dark.

In other words, during bipolar episodes or periods of depression, listening to hip-hop can help people visualize or imagine a more positive place and where they’d like to be in the future. In turn, they arrive at a more secure mental state.

The study was conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Becky Inkster and psychiatrist Dr. Akeem Sule.

As Dr. Sule puts it:

Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it’s inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalization, crime and drugs.

We can see in the lyrics many of the key risk factors for mental illness, from which it can be difficult to escape.

Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free.

We believe that hip-hop, with its rich, visual narrative style, can be used to make therapies that are more effective for specific populations and can help patients with depression to create more positive images of themselves, their situations and their future.

One of the prime examples utilized in the study is that of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” a hip-hop classic.

In the song, Biggie details his rise from deprivation on the harsh streets of Brooklyn to the covers of magazines and a life of affluence. It’s a song about making it against impossible odds.

There are so many other examples like this within the world of hip-hop. From Jay Z’s “On To The Next One” to the more recent Kendrick Lamar track, “i.”

Interestingly enough, not long ago, Lamar stated he penned the song as a form of encouragement and inspiration for prison inmates and suicidal teenagers:

I wrote a record for the homies that’s in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don’t want to live no more.

Accordingly, it’s apparent some hip-hop artists are already deliberately attempting to help people with mental illness.

Regardless of the criticism it receives, hip-hop is a form of artistic expression with limitless educative and therapeutic potential.

The rapper Killer Mike has noted there is a commonly held view that hip-hop poses a threat or danger to society, but as he explains:

The kids spending hours per day writing rap songs aren’t a threat to society; they are often trying to escape the threats from society.