How can psychedelics cure my diabetes?
I am a board-certified internal medicine physician. That is pretty unusual in the psychedelics world, because most healthcare professionals in psychedelics are either psychologists or psychiatrists.
This unexpected background gives me a particular perspective on psychedelic clinical applications that is not so obvious to others. I’ve spent years helping patients manage not only their depression and anxiety, but also their diabetes and weight loss challenges. I’ve seen the same patients come back again and again with heart failure or COPD exacerbations, severe conditions which are the result of unmanaged chronic disease. Medication non-adherence alone costs the US up to $290B a year (1). That’s not even taking into account the costs related to poor diet, low physical activity, substance abuse, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.
We all know in these diseases, the real enemy is behavioral, not pharmacological or even biological. People forget or ignore their maintenance medications, and restart their gym and dieting goals with every new year.
Rather than chasing down more and more expensive novel pharmaceuticals to battle chronic disease, we should be focusing on individuals’ behaviors. This could help make a solid dent on the 90% of healthcare costs or $4.1 trillion per year for chronic and mental health conditions (2). Some million and a half clinics and companies are building coaching support systems to help, but that can only go so far (3). We need to employ new, transformative tools in behavioral change.
Enter psychedelics. What is fascinating about this class of medicines is how they help individuals see themselves in a novel way and consider novel life choices. I’ve spoken to people who tell me how profound their psychedelic insights were, such as “I need to stop smoking and take care of my body” and “I should really reach out to my friends more.” Instead of being disappointed with the seeming banality of these insights, I am excited. These “duh” epiphanies are precisely what we need to start and stick to healthy lifestyle choices.
These “duh” epiphanies are precisely what we need to start and stick to healthy lifestyle choices.
Think about it. You’re a busy professional with a schedule full of back-to-back meetings, sometimes with screaming children in the background. The last thing you want to do at the end of the day is go to the gym and eat a grilled chicken salad. Most of the time, you end up watching TV with some beers for the couple of hours you have before passing out (maybe on the bed, if you’re lucky). You and your partner don’t have the time or energy to get in the mood for intimate relations, much less a deep discussion about your purpose in life.
Years of this, and you see how you might end up with a dozen extra pounds, multiple daily medications, and a strained marriage. It only gets harder as the years go on to change deeply-ingrained habits and addictions.
Then you start psychedelic-assisted coaching/therapy (PACT). Over your first few sessions of psychedelics and coaching you finally feel the magnitude of what your past life choices have done. You aren’t intimidated, however. You, in fact, have never before been so incredibly motivated to live a truly fulfilled life. The psychedelics have opened up new ways of thinking and flexed your idea of your identity. Why shouldn’t you reinvent yourself? You start with the easy stuff — cutting out alcohol and limiting TV to your daily run on the treadmill. Then you work on your relationship — when was the last time you and your partner dreamed together? You start listening to your kids, and they respond with first awkward disbelief, but then eventual gratitude. By the time six months have passed, you look in the mirror and literally cannot recognize your life, in a really good way.
The steps to get to this future will take work, but the pieces are in place. I’d be incredibly disappointed if, in ten years, we’re still spending a gazillion dollars a year on preventable diseases. Because with the tools of psychedelics, which are the tools to change our minds and behaviors, we have the tools to change health, and therefore lives, for the better.
With the tools of psychedelics, which are the tools to change our minds and behaviors, we have the tools to change health, and therefore lives, for the better.
- Cutler, R. L., Fernandez-Llimos, F., Frommer, M., Benrimoj, C., & Garcia-Cardenas, V. (2018). Economic impact of medication non-adherence by disease groups: A systematic review. BMJ Open, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016982
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 6). Health and economic costs of chronic diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm
- Oksman, E., Linna, M., Hörhammer, I., Lammintakanen, J., & Talja, M. (2017). Cost-effectiveness analysis for a tele-based health coaching program for chronic disease in primary care. BMC Health Services Research, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-017-2088-4