How psychedelics work, explained in under 6 minutes | Matthew Johnson

– Every psychological experience
has a biological correlate: These are two sides of the same coin. You see the color green, There’s something happening in your brain That’s coding that experience
of the color green. So, with psychedelics, The biggest divide is
whether we’re talking about On the psychological side
or the biological side. Does it work by hitting
these brain receptors And then having other effects? Or does it work because of the experience? Clearly, there’s this very
real biological effect. Something dramatic happens to the brain When you put the
psychedelic in the system, But then someone has this experience, And when they change their
life because of that, That ends up sounding more like They went through a really
good course of psychotherapy. So, psychedelics are really interesting At that bridge between the
biological and the psychological. What ’psychedelic’ means
from its linguistic roots Is ”mind manifesting.” The idea that these are mind manifesting- That’s consistent with this other notion That these are non-specific amplifiers. In other words, You could have a euphoric experience. You could have a hellish experience. Also, terminology is so
difficult in this area. Psychedelic can be used to refer To what are called the ”classic
psychedelic compounds”: Psilocybin, which is in magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT, which is in ayahuasca,

Mescaline, which is in peyote. Those are the classic psychedelics. They affect a particular
type of serotonin receptor And that’s their primary
mechanism of action. But then you have other drugs That I think it’s appropriate
to call them psychedelic; Other scientists will disagree. So for example, MDMA will
work by releasing serotonin. So, that’s a different mechanism. And you have other drugs
such as ketamine and PCP. So, that affects the glutamate system In the brain primarily rather
than the serotonin system. So, what does psychedelic mean then If it refers to multiple
pharmacological classes of drugs That work in different ways? And the answer for me is
that these are all drugs That can have a profound effect
on one’s sense of reality, Including one’s sense of self. The huge question that’s
always thrown out is: ’How do these psychedelics work?’ And you can just come at that
from so many different angles. Now to go down that biological path, What’s happening? There’s a lot going on. For example, psilocybin, Which people may know is the active agent In so-called ”magic mushrooms.” Once it’s circulating through your blood, After you’ve eaten some of it, It actually converts to a
related compound called psilocin, Which is the thing that’s actually hitting The brain receptors. And it activates a subtype
of serotonin receptor. So, we have lots

Of different types of serotonin
receptors in our brain. One is called the ’serotonin 2A’ receptor, And psilocybin and the
other classic psychedelics, Can latch onto that The same way that our serotonin latches Onto these brain receptors. So, psilocybin affects serotonin, But then serotonin affects
the glutamate system. And then at another level, You have this massive
increase in communication, Across these different silos in the brain. That is probably an
important level of analysis That is underlying at
the psychological level: Patients who have claims of
insight viewing themselves From a radically different perspective, From a different lens, And based on animal research, There also seems like there may be Increased ’neuroplasticity’ In the system so that
in the days following The psychedelic experience, People are more primed
to learn new things. There’s a greater ability
to establish a new And more optimal normal state. So, there’s seemed To really be something important about ’the nature of the experience’ That people have during these sessions. It’s not just about hitting a certain type Of serotonin receptor in the brain. There’s something about the psychology Of the experience that unfolds During that session that
tends to be important- Which is in some sense

What makes the psilocybin treatments, A bit more like psychotherapy Than traditional psychiatric medications Where you just take the
pill and you forget it. There’s some interacting reasons Why the psychedelic
renaissance is happening now. Our society has been in
a mental health crisis, And it’s been stagnating. Pharmaceutical companies
don’t make the investments In new mental healthcare treatments, Like they did decades ago. I mean, the best medical treatments That we have for many addictions, Are substitution treatments, Also known as ’agonist treatments.’ And I think these are good, But when you don’t see success, I would say it’s probably ’cause they fail To get to the roots of
these mental disorders, Including addiction. That’s why I think psychedelics
have been so successful. Nothing is gonna be a
miracle cure for everyone- Nonetheless, they have so much promise, And we have to have that balance. I think that’s more possible today. – Get smarter, faster With videos from the
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