Author and Psychotherapist Mike Dow: Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Could Be A Potential Treatment For Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression doesn’t get a lot of coverage, but it affects 10 to 15 percent of all mothers of newborns, making an already challenging life change even more exacerbating for a significant number of women. What’s worse, there are few treatment options, and the ones that involve medication aren’t always safe for women who are breastfeeding.
According to Dr. Mike Dow, a psychotherapist at Field Trip Health’s Santa Monica clinic and the New York Times bestselling author of The Brain Fog Fix and Healing the Broken Brain, psychedelic assisted psychotherapy shouldn’t be ruled out as a treatment option for women who are struggling with postpartum depression (PPD).
“The biggest problem in postpartum depression is the reluctance to want to take a daily medication to treat that depression,” said Dow. Current treatments for PPD include antidepressants, which take weeks to months to work and often require trying a few different medications before one is effective, or benzodiazepines, which can be habit-forming and are easily misused.
“What’s interesting about psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, is one of the main reasons people come to us is that they don’t have to take a daily medication,” said Dow. The company’s network of clinics in the U.S. and Canada offer ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, while it’s Amsterdam location provides both psilocybin and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
“No matter what psychedelic drug you’re using for therapy, what we tend to see is that responses are clearly much more robust and longer lasting. For example, ketamine is really effective in treatment-resistant depression, even when patients have tried two or more prescription medications,” he said.
Dow described the distinction between the kind of assisted psychotherapy Field Trip offers, and what someone might find at an IV ketamine clinic: sessions which are “usually run by an anaesthesiologist with no training in mental health.”
According to Dow, after visiting an IV clinic offering the same number of ketamine sessions as Field Trip—six—but without the therapeutic aspect, patients generally experience a return to baseline symptoms after 21 days. The psychotherapist says Field Trip’s internal research shows that people who go through their program—a total of 10 sessions, including six ketamine-assisted psychotherapy sessions as well as four non-medicated psychotherapy sessions—continue to report a significant response “four months and beyond after treatment.”
“We’re noticing that when you combine this medicine with psychotherapy, you can get a response that lasts for a very long time, which of course is very likely ideal for new mothers.” Dow noted the work of Dr. Phil Wolfson, who recently authored a paper on the pharmacokinetics of ketamine in nursing mothers, which showed that nursing could be timed around ketamine doses, “which tend to leave the body pretty rapidly.”
“What I’ve found amazing is that when you see some of the results of ketamine assisted psychotherapy, the feeling of connection, of oneness, of boundless consciousness, feeling these really spiritual measures, some of these increased markers of interpersonal connectivity and bonding are really necessary for mothers to bond with their young,” said Dow.
While Field Trip is not yet offering ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for postpartum depression (“We’re on the conservative side,” says Dow), the company is pursuing it, as well as treatment resistant depression, as indications for its first molecule in development, FT-104, which is a synthetic serotonin-2A agonist and similar to psilocybin.
Dow said FT-104, which is “essentially a psilocybin molecule that is designed to have a shorter half-life,” could be ideal for the treatment of PPD specifically because the length of the trip is intended to be much shorter than with psilocybin. Sitting in a clinic for an entire day isn’t exactly ideal for a new mom.