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What Is Narcosynthesis? How Is It Used To Treat Trauma? 

The Narcosynthesis method involves working with a patient under the influence of hypnotic drugs while the patient is suffering from acute traumatic neurosis. To treat patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after World War II, psychiatrists developed the technique of narcosynthesis [1].

In Narcosynthesis, also known as sodium amytal interview, amobarbital interview, or amytal interview, a free association technique is utilized to identify relevant topics for further therapy.

In the United States, this procedure is only used in the most extreme cases and is administered as an inpatient hospital admission under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. However, in countries such as India, narcosynthesis is used for the interrogation of possible suspects in criminal cases [2].

Narcosynthesis In Treating Trauma

Point 1: During the 1930s, Dr William Bleckwenn introduced narcoanalysis as a therapy for severely schizophrenic patients and those suffering from catatonic mutism (catatonia impairs one's ability to move normally) [2].

Point 2: The test involves the intravenous administration of a drug (such as sodium pentothal, scopolamine, and sodium amytal) that causes the subject to enter various stages of anaesthesia.

Point 3: Upon administration of this drug, these individuals would be temporarily released from their somatic state. Although they were able to converse, consume meals, and behave as if they were completely healthy, the effect was only temporary. After a few hours, they returned to their previous state of being.

Point 4: Through this treatment, cathartic therapy began to be used as a treatment for soldiers after the Second World War. In addition, short-term barbiturates caused disinhibition, which facilitated the participation of soldiers in psychotherapy [3].

Point 5: The phenomenon of catharsis occurs under hypnosis and is often an integral part of therapy that addresses repressed memories. Psychoanalytic mental health practitioners used it in the past to treat symptoms of hysteria, which was previously termed hysteria [4].

Point 6: During the session, the procedure utilizes a technique of free association as well as dream and transference material in order to identify relevant topics for further therapeutic discussion.

Point 7: In order to treat or reduce the effects of shell shock and other manifestations of psychological trauma associated with battle, the therapists worked with the soldiers to recall battle traumas. By augmenting standard hypnosis with narcotics and "synthesizing" mental states through the power of hypnotic suggestion, a negative mental state could be replaced by a positive one [5].

Point 8: In the case of treatment of trauma, several experts strongly recommend against narcosynthesis, citing the lack of understanding of the treatment and the extent to which it can alter/impact the human brain [6].

On A Final Note...

As medical professionals debate the efficacy of techniques such as narcosynthesis, it is the ethical aspect of this area of psychology that presents society with the greatest challenge since the flexibility of the human psyche is common knowledge - that is, the results may not be accurate and sometimes manipulated.

Story first published: Thursday, November 17, 2022, 19:45 [IST]
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