The latest episode of The Sanctuary’s webinar series features one of the most-discussed topics related to mental health: “Alternative treatments for anxiety, PTSD, and pain.” The Sanctuary’s co-founder and renowned oncologist, Dr. Pejman Bady, sat with Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, the co-founder, and co-director of the AIMS Institute in Seattle, WA.
AIMS is a teaching clinic and research institute delivering advanced medical care in palliative care, oncology, psychiatry, neurology, and pain. Dr. Aggarwal enlightened us about how anxiety is related to pain and PTSD and what are the significant anxiety signs he focuses on in his patients.
He is well-known for his cannabis and psychedelic-based treatments to ensure his patient’s spiritual health and well-being. His expertise digs deep into using psychedelics for pain relief, as he reveals the right dosage of cannabis and psilocybin for pain-related anxiety and PTSD attacks.
Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, MD, Ph.D., FAAPMR, FAAHPM
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal is an overseas citizen of India who holds a Ph.D. in medical geography and a Doctorate of Medicine (M.D.), among several other degrees. Dr. Aggarwal is well-known for his interest in cannabis and psychedelic integrative palliative care and medicine.
He is a board-certified doctor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, a Fellow of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (FAAPMR), and the Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (FAAHPM)’s Immediate Past Chair of the Integrative Medicine Special Interest Group.
With his specializations in palliative care, including rehabilitation and direct-observed therapy, he tells us about anxiety’s main signs and how it correlates with pain and PTSD. In addition, he also talks about how cannabis and psilocybin help treat anxiety and pain and how micro-doses of both solutions are beneficial for such conditions.
What is Anxiety and How Does it Correlate with Pain and PTSD?
Anxiety is related to excessive worry and fear about several life factors, such as survival, finances, climate change, wars, etc. When these worries limit the ability of a person to function personally and socially, they control loss and suspect everyone’s intentions.
People with anxiety have high adrenaline levels, making them more activated and vigilant or hyper-vigilant to dangers. The same is the case with pain. We often associate everything with risks or dangers when we are in pain.
For example, “Something’s wrong with me,” “I’m falling apart,” “I’m stepping on something,” “I ate something wrong,” because pain always brings up worry and anxiety.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, anxiety is deeply connected with pain and PTSD. Anxiety is an aspect of PTSD in which you are clipped in a specific mode and feel pain.
If the pain continues, our brains wind up and go through central sensitization, in which the whole nervous system gets sensitized just like PTSD sensitization. Many researchers view PTSD as the result of the sensitization of fear/anxiety.
Therefore, people with such pain-related anxiety disorders need to find systems to shut this phase down and enhance pain relief pathways.
How Cannabis Helps Reduce PTSD, Pain, and Anxiety?
Mostly it’s hard to perform meditation or relaxation exercises when you’re crippled by anxiety or stuck in a mode. That’s when cannabis helps. The plant is known for its beneficial compounds that take people on a journey where they simply don’t feel any sort of pain.
Dr. Aggarwal says that cannabis significantly helps with pain. He tells us about a case where cannabis was given to a patient suffering from a bone injury.
As a result, the person coped with his pain relatively better. In another case, cannabis was used as an anesthetic in dental procedures to make patients forget about their pain.
Dr. Pejman also shared a case about his mother, in which she used to consume cannabis to deal with her chemotherapy pain. Surprisingly, it helped her a lot!
Cannabis convinces people to see behind the awareness of what’s happening, connecting to a different sense of self where you don’t identify your pain, constant worry, or hypervigilance thoughts. The plant makes people calm. However, remember that it can only work well with conventional treatment methods.
How to Use Cannabis for PTSD, Pain, Anxiety?
Dr. Aggarwal emphasizes “microdosing of cannabis” on low-temperature vaporization for PTSD, pain, and anxiety relief. It’s better to start with small doses like a fifth of a gram of cannabis, like micrograms of cannabis, i.e., 0.02 μg.
Cannabis at much lower doses gives more terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds, offering quicker pain relief.
Dr. Aggarwal also suggested a device called “DynaVap’s vaporizer” for cannabis consumption. It has an exciting induction heat that generates ideal low temperatures for cannabis.
If someone consumes cannabis in a higher dose, they could experience a strong effect. The cannabinoid system is biphasic. If you give somebody enough cannabinoids, you can make their anxiety worse, similar to pain.
Is Psilocybin Effective for Anxiety and Pain Relief?
Yes, psilocybin is super-effective for anxiety and pain relief. It is a naturally-occurring ingredient in 100-200 species of mushrooms and has been used as an antigen throughout the ages. It has low dose and high dose effects, just like cannabis.
Upon psilocybin consumption, the person feels mood swings over time as the ingredient can boost neurotransmitters. That’s because psilocybin is very close to serotonin, a mood-enhancing chemical in the brain.
Psilocybin interrupts the default mode network (the whole standard operating system of the brain). It increases the connectivity between areas of the brain that don’t usually talk to each other, including the higher brain centers and some of the lower, more primitive areas.
This increases the entropy of the brain and nervous system, meaning that you have more degrees of freedom and can come out of recurring PTSD, pain, worry, and anxiety cycles.
What is the Right Dosage of Psilocybin for Pain and Anxiety Relief?
Dr. Aggarwal suggests tenths of a gram or two-tenths of psilocybin for pain and anxiety relief patients. People with PTSD, anxiety, and pain can use the mushroom’s fruiting body and the mycelium (the underpart), a reproductive organ.
Psilocybin dosages vary depending on where you get it from, what mushroom you’re using, which part of it you use, and the dried weight dose. In a clinical study, researchers used psilocybin dosages from 20-25 milligrams.
At the end of the webinar, Dr. Aggarwal was hopeful about further discovering the effectiveness of psilocybin and cannabis for anxiety and pain. Currently, we have enough clinical studies and research to know that cannabis and psilocybin are among the most effective treatments for PTSD, pain, and anxiety disorders when used with conventional treatment methods.
Dr. Sunil Aggarwal
Co-founder, and co-director of the AIMS Institute in Seattle, WA
President, Medical Director NuVeda Natural Medicinal Solutions.
Want to learn more?
You can get more information about medical cannabis in out blog, check out these articles.