Another Approach to Mental Health Care
In 1979, I took two years off to teach myself biology with the goal of understanding how the human brain worked. Five years later and with a master’s in neurobiology under my belt, what did I learn? That the human brain is the most powerful and complex phenomenon on earth, and we’re not even close to figuring out how it works.
At the molecular level, it operates via neurotransmitters, and for good or bad, we think the brain can be controlled with pharmaceutical drugs. Someone who wants to change all that is Dr. Ian Luepker of Ashland Consciousness Medicine (located at Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 635 Lit Way).
“For 20 years I’ve been helping my patients find natural alternatives to psychiatric medications for mental health concerns,” said Dr. Luepker, who moved to Ashland from Seattle in 2006 to join Dr. Deborah Gordon’s practice. “Over the last decade, I have been closely following the renaissance of using psychedelic medicines to help with depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, existential distress and end-of-life care.”
According to Dr. Luepker, Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs only work temporarily while the medicine is in your system.
“By contrast, with psychedelic/consciousness medicine, after one session, there can be a complete paradigm shift that lasts for days or weeks if not months,” he said. “People seem to access the eternal truths directly and experientially. I hear them talk about the importance of forgiveness and the experience of love as the organizing principle of the universe. This love extends to themselves in the form of radical self-acceptance and healthy self-love. This is true healing—consciousness medicine--and not a ‘band-aid’ approach.”
Though Dr. Luepker recognizes the usefulness of conventional mental health approaches, he’s a proponent of a different method.
“We give somebody a diagnostic label and then give them a drug to suppress or repress their unwanted feelings and thoughts,” he said. “These conventional psychiatric medications rarely address the root cause of their suffering. They may have some merit in the short term for psychiatric emergencies, but in the long run it exiles the person from their authentic selves—mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“As a holistic doctor, I am interested in helping people come home to themselves and heal by helping them access their self-led innate healing capacity. Love is not a gated community, and when we can accept all parts of who we are by fully accepting ourselves, we can heal and become whole again. Consciousness medicine points us in that direction, and with the help of the trained integration psychotherapist on our team, Martha McCord, LMFT, we can sustain those changes and root them in daily experience.”
Currently, the only psychedelic that is well-researched and legally available for consciousness medicine is ketamine. It is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines—which is based on safety and efficacy.
“Ketamine reawakens portions of the brain that have shut down in response to the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or trauma,” Dr. Luepker said. “It stimulates neuroplasticity, which means that it may effectively rewire parts of the brain thought to play a role in depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction or mood disorders. In part, it does this by increasing Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is considered the ‘Miracle Grow’ of developing new learning pathways in our brains.”
Together with his wife, daughters and 100-lb livestock guardian dog, Klamath, Dr. Luepker homesteads and frequently roams the hills of Talent where they live. He plays guitar and old-time banjo and loves to weave fabrics on a floor loom.
For more info and/or to set up an appointment, call 541-482-2824. You can also see them at ashlandconsciousnessmedicine.com and on Facebook.