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From Taboo to Triumph: How Psychedelics are Transforming Mental Health in Daniel Kalla’s High Society

Bestselling Vancouver author and emergency room doctor Daniel Kalla delves into the cultural transformation surrounding psychedelic therapy in his latest novel, High Society. Kalla’s curiosity and personal experiences drive his narrative, focusing on the broader societal shifts in perceptions of mental health, drug use, and addiction.

In High Society, Kalla introduces readers to Holly Danvers, a psychiatrist specializing in the therapeutic use of psychedelics, including ketamine and MDMA. Set in Laguna Beach, Holly’s practice reflects a growing trend: the re-emergence of psychedelics from their long-standing stigma to potential mental health remedies.

Studies increasingly show that these substances could complement traditional treatments for conditions like addiction, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In Vancouver, for instance, psilocybin is available for delivery, and several clinics offer ketamine therapy.

Kalla’s intrigue was sparked by friends’ positive experiences with ketamine therapy and the rise of psilocybin microdosing for managing ADHD and anxiety. "I’m always looking to find that zeitgeist issue, but it fascinated me on a personal basis," he explains. "The more I read and talked to industry insiders, the more impressed I became with this new class of drugs."

Ketamine, a staple in anesthetics, is now grouped with psychedelics due to its effects on brain receptors, glutamate, dopamine, and serotonin levels. Kalla, who regularly uses ketamine in emergency procedures, acknowledges its benefits. "It’s a terrific drug for critical procedures because it dissociates patients while keeping them breathing on their own."

Despite its potential, Kalla has yet to undergo ketamine therapy himself but has tried psilocybin microdosing. "I thought it was good. I haven’t done the full trip yet, but I don’t think it is dangerous," he states, noting his extensive experience with substance abuse cases at St. Paul’s Hospital. "We see every substance problem, but hardly ever people coming in on psychedelics. That alone tells me it is relatively safe."

However, psychedelics are not without controversy. Concerns persist that these substances could trigger schizophrenia in predisposed individuals, though evidence is inconclusive. Major institutions like Harvard are conducting significant studies on psychedelics, indicating a growing mainstream acceptance.

In High Society, Holly Danvers’ work sits at the intersection of innovation and controversy. Treating a group of patients, known as the Tribe, with an unproven mix of ketamine and MDMA, Holly’s practice highlights the clash between groundbreaking therapy and societal skepticism.

Holly, burdened by personal guilt and a toxic marriage, embodies the complexities of modern mental health care. Her grandfather, Walter, a veteran of the 1960s psychedelic movement, helps trace the tumultuous history of these substances.

"The history is so fascinating," Kalla notes. "LSD was the most studied psychiatric drug in the sixties until Nixon criminalized it due to a vendetta against Timothy Leary. It disappeared from medical research for decades." This historical context enriches Kalla’s narrative.

High Society mirrors societal changes, as the Tribe's members, from diverse backgrounds, navigate their own challenges. Kalla portrays his characters as wealthy, high-functioning addicts to challenge stereotypes. "Addiction affects all socioeconomic groups," he emphasizes. "Many people are crippled by addiction but still manage to function or seem to function."

Kalla’s novel raises critical questions about the future of mental health treatments and the cultural acceptance of psychedelics. As societal perceptions shift, High Society serves as a reflection of these changes, illustrating the potential for psychedelics to transform lives across different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Do you believe psychedelics could revolutionize mental health treatment?

  • Yes, they have great potential.

  • Maybe, but more research is needed.

  • No, it's too risky and unproven.

  • I need more information to decide.


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