Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Mental Health | A Breakthrough for Anxiety & Depression with Jose Muñoz

Content By: Ari Whitten & Jose Muñoz

In this episode, I am speaking with Jose Muñoz about psychedelic medicine and, specifically, the use of ketamine in healing, emotional development, and spiritual growth.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Jose and I discuss: 

  • Why taking psychedelics like ketamine in a safe, therapeutic setting is very different from its use at a rave or any other context
  • The safety profile of ketamine and why its use in mental health and well-being has been minimal until now
  • The potential benefits of being able to take ketamine lozenges at home to improve problems like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and mental health
  • What the placebo effect tells us about the potential of the mind to heal the body. (And why the idea that even small amounts of stress are dangerous is wrong, disempowering…and harmful!)
  • The misleading idea that depression and anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and why ketamine should not be thought of as just another way to chemically alter the mind.
  • How ketamine works to allow the brain to dissociate temporarily, enabling individuals to gain insight into their unique problems and find their own solutions.

Listen or download on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


Ari Whitten: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me in this episode is my new friend, Jose Muñoz, who is the co-founder and managing director of Wondermed; a health tech company empowering the inner healer of people through psychedelic medicine, specifically ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. This is one of a few emerging companies in this space, this rapidly emerging, rapidly growing new space of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that we are seeing just explode in popularity, in awareness in the scientific community.

So much new research has come out in the last few years around how powerful these compounds can be, particularly when used in a safe therapeutic context, in the context of psychotherapy-assisted-psychedelic use, as opposed to using these compounds in the context of a rave or a party setting or something like that. The research is absolutely astounding. It is game-changing as far as the kinds of results that we’re seeing with certain mental health conditions, particularly depression, anxiety, and PTSD being the biggest ones.

This is another one of what is now a few different conversations I’ve had with experts in this space who are doing this kind of work. One of the other ones that I’d strongly encourage you to listen to from a clinician with a ton of experience and a ton of knowledge around the science of how all of this stuff works is my conversation with Dave Rabin, Dr. Dave Rabin, who is an MD, PhD. He’s a psychiatrist and has a PhD in neuroscience. He explains the science like nobody else, so I’d strongly encourage you to listen to that.

Jose Muñoz is, again, the founder of Wondermed; one of these companies that is bringing this to the world in a phenomenal way. I’m a huge supporter and advocate for their work, and I think he does an amazing job in this conversation explaining a lot of difficult-to-explain topics. This is somewhat of a wide-ranging or broad conversation, sort of a meta-level conversation about the role of this sort of work in the context of modern humanity.

We talk about cultural narratives, and the placebo effect and how our beliefs influence our reality, and how that ties into the medications that we might use, whether conventional antidepressant drugs, or whether something like psychedelic use or ketamine-assisted psychotherapy or psychotherapy-assisted-ketamine use, however you want to phrase it. I think there’s a lot of gold nuggets in this conversation. I think if this is an area you’re interested in if you’ve been struggling with depression or anxiety, or you’re interested in optimizing your mental wellness, I think you’ll get a lot of value from this conversation. Enjoy.

Welcome to the show, Jose. Such a pleasure to finally have you on with us. This has been a long time in the making. We’ve been chasing after each other, canceling and rescheduling on each other multiple times. It’s wonderful to finally get you on the show.

Jose: Absolutely. Thank you so much. They say that the good things, you have to desire them. This is definitely a desired podcast that we’ve been wanting to do for a while

What is Wondermed?

Ari: For sure. You are the founder of a company called Wondermed, and why don’t we start there? What is Wondermed, what is it all about? Then we’ll delve into some of the scientific aspects of this as we go from there.

Jose: Great. Well, let’s see. Wondermed is a company focused right now in helping humanity, and especially helping people empower their inner healers. It’s a company that believes in the power of humans, the power that our brains have in making us feel better, in making us be better. That power right now, we’re utilizing the catalytic energy and forces of psychedelic medicine to help people treat their mental health.

Right now we’re focusing in anxiety and depression. Wondermed allows, through accessible and personalized treatments, for people to receive ketamine low-dose lozenges to their home. This treatment allows for people to go into this exoteric, dissociative state of mind in about a one-hour experience through these caramel that melts in your mouth, to really be able to- what we consider to be an elevation of your consciousness. Some form of perception change that ultimately allows patients to make a behavioral change, a change in habit or a change in perception that improves their mental health. That’s the focus of Wondermed.

The recent research on ketamine

Ari: Excellent. Very succinct summary of a very complex topic. Let’s begin with– I’ve done a number of podcasts at this point on psychedelics. However, I find there to be one big problem in broaching this discussion is there is still a fairly large demographic of people that are just mentally very closed off to the idea that there’s any value here. They’re still operating in a paradigm of thinking, “Hey, these things are drugs. Why would I have an interest in doing drugs? Why is Ari having a podcast with this guy talking about these drugs? What value could this have? Isn’t this just about people getting high and escaping reality?”

Maybe you can start by speaking to those people and telling them a little bit more about ketamine and some of the research behind ketamine in the context you were just describing there.

Jose: Absolutely. I think it’s a fascinating topic. Psychedelics, and especially the conversations that you just bring up, a lot of which come up from a lack of awareness or education on the topics that ultimately come from data findings, and a lot of skepticism being built up through social constructs. The most beautiful aspect of this discussion is the starting statistics that showcase that most people that are even conversing about this are actually victims of the same system that we’re discussing.

In the United States alone, there’s 96 million prescriptions in a single year of benzodiazepine. That substance is brands like, for example, Xanax that is being utilized for a lot of things, one of the main things being anxiety solutions. The problem with these substances, why psychedelics basically come in and create this havoc in the pharmaceutical industry and society is because it’s a completely different shift in the way that we see mental health. We’ve been seeing mental health as a chemical imbalance. Therefore, you tell a patient, “You have some form of chemical imbalance in your brain. I am going to give you a medicine, a chemical that is going to help you.”

That alone creates a theoretical dependency from the patient relationship with the medicine, that I myself cannot fix what I have and I need this medication. As I’m sure most of the audience listening today, those common medications are antidepressants and benzodiazepines. The problem with these medications is that they’ve been shown to not be very efficacious. About only 45% of people receive some form of effect. However, most people have side effects with the medicine, especially those that take the medicine for long periods of time.

Since I’ve started working on this company for about two years and a half now, I’ve met several hundreds of individuals that have been on these medicines for decades now. Therefore, taking a medicine that you inherently need to take for decades to come is not really something that has solved the problem. That basically for us as a company helps us understand that there is a hole that needs to be covered. Then when psychedelics come in, is that the notion of this dependency in thought that I mentioned at the beginning gets disrupted.

Psychedelics don’t heal mental health. If you speak to any person that is really developing the psychedelic space and focusing patient outcomes, suggests that psychedelics are a mere catalyst. Stan Grof defines it perfectly. He says, “Psychedelics will be for the study of the mind what the telescope was for astronomy.” I think that’s a beautiful quote because he describes what the patient feels with it.

Psychedelics are elevating the playing field of an individual’s awareness of their own reality, of their own life, for them to perceive what must be changed, and that change be the thing that actually improves them. I understand how it could be a hard discussion. It’s a very different approach even to the medicine and the problems that people cope with it, but it certainly has been proven through thousands of clinical trials to be very efficacious.

Now to just wrap up this point that you mentioned around ketamine. Ketamine has been utilized as a substance for the past 30 to 40 years. It is technically not classified as a psychedelic. However, it does have psychedelic-like properties within the experience itself. As a substance, I’ve spoken plenty with pharmacists, doctors, physicians, psychiatrists, neuroscientists. In a hospital setting, ketamine is between top three and top five most-used drug in ER settings. It is something that has been considered of incredibly safety profiles and it is being used on a daily basis. The problem is that it was never used or intended to use for psychological or psychoactive effects.

There is a story that rounds around Dr. John Krystal from Yale University that initially perceived the initial effects of anti-depressive symptoms with ketamine. That perception came a little bit in a eureka type of moment. It wasn’t the perceived intention. Yet that perceived change in the psyche of the patients, it started disrupting a lot of studies that now Yale University is one of the universities pioneering the study of ketamine.

The difference between SSRI and Ketamine treatment for depression

Ari: Very interesting. Let’s cover some technical aspects. Then I want to get into the more profound subjective aspects of what this is doing and what kind of experiences people are having and what benefits they derive from them. From a purely technical biochemistry perspective, what is ketamine doing in the brain and how does that differ from, let’s say, traditional antidepressant drugs, as you were describing them, where people are coming from the frame of, “You’ve got a chemical imbalance in your brain. Most commonly, you’ve got a serotonin deficiency. Take these SSRIs, specific serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs. If you keep taking those, you will have higher levels of serotonin. You will have this antidepressant effect.”

How does that contrast with what ketamine is doing in the brain?

Jose: We’ll go back to the way in which the theory of change, which is the theory upon a scientist trying to prove a concept gets laid out before it even gets tested. In the notion of antidepressants with the monoamine theory, you really start looking at an effect of serotonin. It’s associated with mood regulation. Therefore, if we regulate your serotonin levels, it means the synaptic cleft, which is the area in between neurons, we’re going to be able to see some form of mood effect. That mood effect being highlighted, there should be a decreasing level in depression.

That correlation, no causality because obviously, we are not able to prove that causality right now, that correlation has not been statistically significant for now several and several and several years and hundreds of clinical trials. [crosstalk]–

Ari: There was a new paper, by the way, I’m sure you saw it, just maybe a few months ago, that came out by Moncrieff et al., that found- basically that concluded the body of evidence does not support the serotonin deficiency/chemical imbalance model of depression.

Jose: Absolutely, and it came as a shock in the industry for a lot of people, and when you speak to experts, they really weren’t surprised. Apparently, this has been an assumption that has been made and really has been profitable for a lot of pharmaceutical industries. We talk about $13 billion, $14 billion a year by utilizing this thesis and a medication that supports it.

How ketamine comes in, in a little bit left side, and its commonalities with other psychedelic medicine is that it also affects the brain, and it affects it in a similar fashion in terms of it producing some transformation between neurotransmitters. The powerful thing of ketamine that as of now it’s intended to be, that’s the primary effect of its benefits, is that it targets the glutamate neurotransmitter network. That network is the most common and potent neurotransmitter network in the brain.

How that is linked to mental health is through the notion of neuroplasticity. Our brains are very, very plastic organs. They’re actually constantly changing and modifying. They’re firing neurons left and right. That’s how we as human beings even exist. Our notion of I am and my consciousness comes from a somewhat ethereal effect of these millions of neurons firing each other on a constant basis. What ketamine does, it has been shown to increase the neuroplasticity in a very powerful way. Within a matter of an hour, there is a very high neuroplastic window that is probably sustained for about seven days as it has been shown in clinical trials.

What ketamine does and the theory is not that increased glutamate is going to improve your mental health. It is that this experience in which you are in a dissociative mode– Because we have to remember, ketamine started as an anesthetic. For patients, that experience stands in the sense of them laying out, putting some eye mask on their eyes, putting some headphones and letting the music for one hour and a half, one hour, take them through this journey. That journey in which their body is somewhat more in an anesthetic state actually is a very fruitful one. Their brains are powered, they’re recharged. What that allows is for new neurological connections to occur.

In its most basic format, we can think about it as if you think about your problem, you have an intention setting before the experience, and within the experience, you gain a slightly different perception or perspective into what that problem is. That, outside of the experience itself, allows patients to realize, “I could maybe feel different about this, or there might be a different way of thinking about this or acting on this sense in my life that I haven’t tried,” and that ultimately be the catalyst that changes people’s mental health.

Again, just to summarize, we have a very different basis of theory upon why we utilize the medicine and the dependency that patients must perceive of it. Then two, the chemical differences as to how it really targets the brain.

Benefits of disassociation

Ari: Very nicely explained. Let’s go a little deeper in this subjective experience aspect of that. There’s the purely biochemical basis of this, which involves, as you said, glutamate and NMDA receptors, but I think when you analyze things on just that level, you miss something. The same as if you talk about psilocybin or LSD from the perspective of, “Oh, yes, it’s stimulating these serotonin receptors and that’s how it works.”

There’s clearly something here that goes far beyond dozens of other things that might also work on the NMDA glutamate receptors. There’s lots of things, there’s lots of compounds that act in some way on those receptors and on the glutamate system in the brain that do not have the effects that ketamine has. I don’t know that it’s fully understood within neuroscience exactly what’s going on there and with the biochemistry of what’s going on there, but in terms of the subjective experience that the individual is having, they’re worlds apart.

I know you’ve alluded to this already, you’ve touched on the subjective experience and perspective in particular, but this is, as you said, a dissociative substance. What does that mean for people unfamiliar with that term, to take a dissociative to be more dissociated? What is it that we are being dissociated from, and why is that something that would be desirable for anyone?

Jose: Great question. I think the best way to answer this would be to allude to the thousands of testimonials that people have been giving right now in the way that they describe it. Then I think I could put my own personal touch into it. I think perspective or disassociation is something that has been valued and understood by society probably since the beginning of humanity. I want to be very generalistic here, but I’m sure you’ve heard the sentence, the grass is always greener in the other side.

Ari: Sure.

Jose: That alone, it’s a sentence that we’ve been utilizing since the beginning that always talks about the aspect of perceiving whatever is on the other side to be better or to be more fruitful than whatever you have with you, even when it is actually not. That alone is a problem of perspective. When we talk about ketamine and the experiences that patients go through, a lot of them describe it such as that.

The ability for a patient to be able to go into an experience in which they disassociate themselves while still being them, but be able to have very introspective thoughts about their own life, it’s almost as if they objectively get to see the main topic in which that intention was formulated. The intention; meaning, why am I going through an experience like this for my mental health? That alone allow their ownself to be aware from a different angle of their own life.

That is the subjective realization that is also dissociative that comes from ketamine, different than from other substances. The beautiful thing about it is that it’s incredibly effective at doing it quickly. The experience itself lasts about an hour, an hour and a half, and the patient does really have that dissociative experience of them being in their own brain, with that key factor in this equation that I think really is exemplified with all psychedelics. The absence of ego is the absence of that subjective belief system that you have already inherently been developing in your own self that gets out of the way, and so it is your true self seeing yourself from the other side of the grass.

For a lot of patients, this gets the resemblance of, “Wow, I didn’t realize how much people love me.” It was literally a sentence given to me last week. Another person says, “Wow, I need to say I love you to my kids more often.” This was very personal for me because he touched what I used to do as a kid a lot in Spain, “I need to watch my kid play soccer on Saturdays.” People are coming with these kinds of realizations about their own life that to the outsider, they seem completely normal. “I need to change jobs.” “Wow, I really love this person. I want to get married,” or, “I would love to move. I would love to travel. I would love to–“

That is ultimately what we’re doing here as a company. We’re navigating the opportunity for patients to go through an experience that ultimately derives a behavioral change. That’s why the power of, in my opinion, psychedelics have for society. Because I don’t want the overuse of them. We don’t want the overexpansion of this medicine to go everywhere. We want it to be a catalyst for those that have this lacking perception of reality.

I, myself, to add that personal touch, come from the astrophysics background. For me, it’s always been a different level of scalability. I’ve looked at galaxies colliding with one another, planetary or orbital rotations. Then I’ve been very interested in the quantum physical world, both from which our current mathematics actually don’t really understand very well, everything from which comes from the observable point of reference of the individual. That’s why it’s very relatable to our own personal life.

We’re cursed by the fact that we are the point of reference in everything that happens in our life, but that curse is actually an opportunity because we are the agent capable of modifying it, especially the perception of it. That’s the power of the brain that we try to resonate with our patients.

How can we be depressed when we are so privileged?

Ari: Yes, very well explained. There’s something that I’ve observed for a long time now, I think especially so in recent years. It’s almost like humans have something built into our psychology where we are perpetually creating our own suffering. We are wired to cause problems for ourselves and get in our own way. We are wired to perceive our situation as difficult regardless of, objectively, how difficult it actually is.

For example, you and I, and the majority of people listening to this podcast, objectively, compared to most humans on earth, have probably a 1 in 1,000, maybe 1 in 10,000, 1 in 100,000, 1 in 1,000,000 type of existence of the most privileged, easy, blessed, abundant sort of existence that humans can have.

All you have to do is go to Mumbai, India and look at the slums and look at the caste system that exists there, or look at, in certain tribes in Africa, how neighboring groups come into a village and will rape and kill people, will rape women and will abduct, will kidnap young boys who might be 7, 8, 10, 13 years old and enlist them as child soldiers, hand them a machine gun and then train them to go do the same in other villages. Now they’re going around and killing people and raping women, and that’s the existence. Then that mother has to live with that experience and watching her boy get abducted and being brainwashed to go do these horrible things.

Yet, I meet so many people who objectively live in this hyper-privileged, abundant, blessed existence, who seem to have no perspective on it, who seem to imagine their lot in life as being extraordinarily difficult and traumatic, and who are depressed and who are constantly stressed because they believe their life is so difficult. There seems to be– Just understanding the limitations of what we are capable, what kinds of actual stressors we’re capable of. Another example could be looking at someone like Viktor Frankl, someone like- people who are put in concentration camps and manage to survive and maintain sanity and the extremes of horrible, cruel treatment.

Given what humans are capable of, it seems remarkable to me that we have such an extraordinary capacity to create our own suffering in the absence of objectively difficult conditions.

Jose: Yes.

Ari: I think this is also where this perspective shift that you’re talking about comes in. Do you have any thoughts on that aspect of human psychology?

Jose: My life. I mean, you’re speaking all my life’s work right now. I think that we are wired, as human beings, to look for difficult situations for survival. We can’t forget that our psyche, our biology has been developed now for hundreds and even millions of years in the evolutionary effect of surviving upon distress. That survival mechanism is not something that you can just directly shut off completely and not have to preoccupy yourself in those things. When you live in Los Angeles or you live in New York, you’re not going to be focused about having to run away from a lion, or having somebody take away your kids on a random Wednesday.

I think that those perceptions, again, from the angle of perspective, gets shifted to whatever issue or problem you have in front of you. Whether that is that the stock market has gone down 1% today, or the fact that they don’t have eggs in the supermarket this morning. Even very simple things such as weather that people get, “Oh my God, it’s raining today. I hate the rain.” Then the whole day has just become this agony because it’s a rainy, cloudy day. We are wired in. The powerful [crosstalk]–

Ari: Especially in Southern California, I think, where I’m from and where you live now.

Jose: Yes, exactly. We’re wired in, so that’s the basis of it. We need to understand that there is a reason for that. However, what you bring of aspect of perspective of the whole world brings opportunity for my understanding. I believe that for we said this, there is way more people with good intentions than bad intentions in the world, way more. I think that there is way more things that unify us, that we have in common outside of our biology that is clearly obvious, where we’re 99.99997 equal regardless of where you’re from, whatever race you have, culture, you are equally as mine for the most part.

On top of that, we have the realization that we’ve shared the main core values of love, wanting to have prosperity, although there were bad actors and agents, as you were reflecting, around the world. Personally, I think that it is the responsibility of people in these higher levels to have the notion in understanding that this position should reflect a responsibility to do good. I, myself, has always been focused, even before this company, that I shared this vision with the co-founder of Wondermed, Ryan Magnussen, to want to create a powerful, unifying, positive impact movement in the world. That being reflected by the idea of unifying people in countries where there is more development.

I personally started with desalination plants, focusing on transforming water from the ocean into potable water using innovation and solar energy. That be my kind of two-cents initiation of wanting to create that type of accessibility to raw materials such as water that most people, millions don’t have around the world. How do we look in this within psychedelics?

The psychedelic movement has very- a lot of things, but I was going to say very important things in common, such as climate change, equality, education, opportunity. All of this be associated with the notion that when you do take a psychedelic experience, the biggest common factors are love, the interconnectedness of the world, the energy that surrounds us all, and the aspect of how you are, regardless of where you are right now having this conversation with me, I have to see you as an equal.

In religion, this a lot of times has been showcased as brothers and sisters. Now in this new era of humanity, we’re going to a perspective in which I don’t care what country you’re from, I’m able to text you and you’re a second away from me. We can exchange ideas, perceptions, photos, videos, emotions. It is a new era for humanity. When you talk about Mumbai or you talk about other countries in the world that are in their need of a change, it is in my opinion; psychedelics, a beautiful catalyst from which this change can come within. This change can come from us to others.

It’s a very interconnected industry when you talk about psychedelics, when you talk about climate change, green energy, tech, education. Personally, it’s one of the things that Ryan and I have really promulgated on the company and the basis of why we do what we do.

The benefits of placebo

Ari: How do you think the placebo effect fits into all of this discussion?

Jose: Placebo is my mistress, let me put it that way. I personally really love placebo, but it’s something that within the medical industry, I have to keep [unintelligible 00:29:21] in these conversations. Let me elaborate a little about why I think that placebo is my mistress. Placebo, in a very general setting, it is reflected as the power of the brain. The ability for a human being to believe that something is going to happen, therefore, their body reacts to it and habits.

In the clinical setting, it is perceived as the mistake. It is perceived as the control group that tries to singularly evaluate whether or not a change in variable, whether it’s a new medication, a new variation of a molecule, has an effect that is statistically significant or not compared to a placebo. That placebo being nothing.

In a lot of settings, for example, they give you a pill that is only sugar and they’re telling you that you’re going to get cured your cancer. There is millions of clinical trials, if not billions now, in which the placebo effect always has had some effect. Meaning that there is somebody that has actually been able to create a mind effect that reflected into real change in their body.

That’s why I love it because I think that when we talk about psychedelics, it is a perception of you believing that you can change, of you believing that there is something better, of you believing that you can feel good. Therefore, it’s starting to wire in those thoughts in your brain that ultimately get reflected into your life. For me, placebo is something that we need to utilize for clinical setting, but most importantly, we need to– What’s the word I’m looking for? We need to recognize it, respect it.

We need to put forth that value that it is important to notice that, men, there are clinical trials for cancer treatment in which patients cure their cancer without receiving medication. There is clinical trials in which people stop feeling pain because they’ve been told that they’ve received a medication that will solve their pain, and it’s a sugar pill. For me, placebo, it’s, I think, the Achilles’ ankle that the pharmaceutical industry has upon themselves, that I think humans has the power to believe that they can change. I personally am a very fan of it, and hopefully, we can continue to study it even forward.

How cultural narratives shape our experience

Ari: I think what’s particularly interesting to me as of late is how dominant cultural narratives and the particular paradigm of a society over a period of time, like the zeitgeist as far as ideas and how people perceive themselves or the world, influence the placebo effect is very interesting. For example, we have research looking at– There’s actually a really cool video on YouTube called This Video Will Hurt. It starts off by basically saying– It’s got this very serious scientific-sounding voice and it says, “Right now there is an ultrasonic noise being played in this video. Your brain cannot perceive it, but it is damaging your brain, your brain function is being hindered right now, and soon you will start to feel headaches.

You will start to feel very intense pounding pressure in your head due to this ultrasonic sound. You’re probably feeling this now,” and it goes on like that. Then it says, “Actually, there is no sound here and there is no science to support that this sound has any negative effects on your brain, but I’ve watched many people listen to that video, I’ve played it for many people, and it’s interesting to see how many people will start to have headaches and will start to absolutely self-generate symptoms as a result of that.

In line with that, I think dominant narratives around stress in our society are very interesting because we’ve had this public health messaging for several decades now around the harms of stress. We have, “Stress raises your blood pressure and stress leads to these overproduction of cortisol, which causes insulin resistance and eats away at your muscle tissue, and dysregulates your blood sugar, and stress is toxic for your brain, and stress disturbs your sleep, and stress runs down your immune system,” and dah, dah, dah. For decades we’ve been inculcated with these sorts of ideas around stress.

There’s a researcher at the Stanford’s lab for mind-body medicine, and they study stress a lot there. A researcher named Alia Crum did an interesting experiment, where they subjected people to some stress and observed their reactions. Prior to that, they had them watch a three-minute video. One group watched a three-minute video on all the harms of stress, it raises your blood pressure, causes hypertension, depresses immune function, is toxic for your brain, causes these hormones that are toxic to your body, dah, dah, dah. It’s breaking your body down.

The other group watched a three-minute video on the positive aspects of stress and how stress sharpens your brain function and causes the release of hormones that are energizing and actually enhances immune function and on and on and on. What they found is that the people subjected to the same stressor had totally different responses to it. Some were made better by it and some were made worse by it according to which video they watched prior to that stress.

There’s other experiments that are similar to this, where they look at, over long periods of time, thousands of people, where they subjected to, do they report having low levels of stress in their life? Two things they’re having people rate. One is how much stress do you have in your life, and two is how harmful do you believe stress is? What they find is that while chronic stress does have some true negative effects, the people with the highest level of actual stress in their life but who believed stress was not harmful had the same health as people with low levels of stress in their life.

I could go on in this discussion here. I’ll add one more layer to it, which is I think that this public narrative around chronic stress is very toxic because it is impossible for humans to be our best selves, to grow and mature and develop into our best-functioning selves in the absence of stress. We don’t become our best by sipping margaritas on the beach and living a life of leisure all the day. We become our best by being tested to our limits and being pushed by the stressors of life, yet the cultural narrative has not fully incorporated that positive side of stress.

Anyway, I think looping this back into what this means related to psychedelics, related to the placebo effect is just to emphasize the power of our mind in shaping our reality and shaping our physiology. If you believe something is bad, then you will create that reality in your life. If you believe something is good, you will create that reality in your life. The moral of the story is you have to be very careful of what you believe about what you’re experiencing.

I think it’s true of what assumptions, what beliefs do you have around psychedelics. Do you believe they’re drugs that are these toxic chemicals that are just used to get high and escape reality or do you believe that they’re life-transforming compounds that can allow you to dissociate from your ego and gain a potentially life-transformative perspective on your life that totally alters your trajectory in your life, that reorients you towards love, towards being a better parent or partner, or towards doing your real vision in life and leaving some life-sucking job that you hate?

It’s very interesting to consider, I think, what we believe and how that shapes our reality and shapes our destiny. Do you have any more thoughts on just playing off what I presented there?

Jose: Yes. It’s the basis of our company, it’s the basis of the industry as a whole. There’s so much we can talk about. Number one being the relevancy of the contextual environment in which you put yourself. The importance of the perceived senses that you get on your day-to-day basis. Whether it’s a job in which your boss is hindering your development, whether it’s the social media or content that you watch on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s the educational system upon a country that projects a certain storyline, whether it is the pharmaceutical theory of change upon medications.

Harvard released a study recently that showcased that placebo effect is in an ever-increasing trend for the past 23 years. Meaning that the power of the brain and the perception of humanity is even larger. When you talk about the voting system, politics, it is everything, but a placebo effect nurturing the belief of people upon certain ideas, regardless of whether they’re true or not– Everything that we talk about, even this new topic, which I’m sure you’ve heard of it now, this idea of the matrix, of society, of getting hindered upon information and making believe that you are a part of the system and how you can break through that.

There’s no matrix, if not a social construct of a matrix that you can break down in your head, therefore starting to behave differently. There isn’t an actual physiological combination that makes the matrix be a matrix. It is all in your mind. When we talk about creating this powerful transformation or revolution in society, it is about making people believe that they do have the power.

There is this incredibly famous experiment in Pavlov experiment with the dogs. I’m sure you’re familiar, and I’m sure probably most of the audience members are familiar, in which Pavlov wanted to train psychologically the dogs by ringing a bell and seeing whether or not the dogs could get conditioned to having to believe that they need to eat, therefore start salivating. After doing it often and often, where he would ring the bell and then feed the dogs, ring the bell and then feed the dogs, he then started to ring the bell and not feed them. The dogs would come to the house and start salivating because in their minds, they believed they had to eat.

It’s a very specific example, but that actually translates to everything. What we perceive conditions who we are. There’s a funny second part to that experiment that not that many people talk about it, but when Pavlov continued living his life, every time that someone rang a bell, did his mind go to think, “Oh, I have to feed the dogs?”

That is the conditioning element that we have to always perceive. We can get conditioned by anything, even positive thoughts. When you see the rain, think positive about it. I’m not saying you go outside and get wet and scream, but think, “Huh, for example, LA needs water.” When you’re with your kid and something happens, learn to look in the positive angle of things.

It’s not that everything happens for a reason and that’s it and you go into this hippy movement of not caring, quite the opposite, care, but look into the positive side, acknowledge the negative one, but look into the positive, focus on the positive. You must be a very happy person. By believing what you believe, I’m sure that you apply on your day-to-day life, and that allow you to be able to go through your problems much easier.

Ari’s personal experiences with psychedelics

Ari: To be honest, psychedelics have helped me gain a lot of perspective shift in my life that have made me a much happier person. I would not say that I was an especially happy person growing up. Happiness has always been something I’ve had to work very hard for. I’m very happy to say that at this point in my life, I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been, and with a beautiful family and two little kids and providing them a great life and being probably one in a million categories as far as how blessed I am with opportunities to pursue my passion.

Since I was a 13-year-old kid, my passion has been health science. This is what I was spending 10 hours a day on everyday, learning nutrition and lifestyle and doing self-experimentation more than a decade before I ever made a dollar from it. I appreciate every day now and give a lot of gratitude for not having to go to work every day working some meaningless, purposeless, life-sucking job that I hate and don’t care about, that is not aligned with my passion, but I get to work with what I’m truly passionate about and have conversations like this and transform thousands of lives. It’s a beautiful, blessed existence. It would be ridiculous for me not to be happy living a life like that.

Jose: Yet there might be people in your position that still think otherwise because they see the same thing, but perceive it differently.

How self-destructive thoughts and behaviors can distort our perception of reality

Ari: Yes. Very true. To the point of what I was saying before, I had the experience recently of, just to loop back into this conversation we had about the human capacity and tendency to create our own suffering, a beautiful young girl, my wife’s cousin, who came to visit us recently. She’s a super beautiful, smart, well-spoken girl, has lived such a beautiful life, has a beautiful family and community. I look at what’s in her mind and I see so much suffering that she’s created for herself out of nowhere, so much lack of body acceptance.

She has a beautiful body and she’s, in her head, constantly feeling totally traumatized that she hates her body and has so much self-judgment. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Geez, how do we humans get ourselves into these messes where our objective circumstance is so good and yet we manage to create so much suffering for ourselves?” I think humans have to be unique in as far as the different species goes-

Jose: Some of the structured ways. [chuckles] Yes, absolutely.

Ari: -[crosstalk] Yes, and how self-destructive we are and our seemingly endless capacity to self-induce our own psychological and emotional suffering.

Jose: Yes, absolutely. I think that now the narrative in society has been towards pushing this, pushing negative connotations, having this almost perspective of if there is something I don’t like, or I don’t understand, or even I don’t agree with, I’m going to cancel it, I’m going to knock it off, I’m going to push it away, instead of working through it. The same notion applies to emotional pain, to emotional perceptions of oneself. It is this angle of if you’ve gone through a detrimental trauma, it is a learning opportunity for you.

Whatever happened in the past, I’m not saying that it has no value, quite the opposite. It has all the value you want to give to it, so working around it, working through with it, that’s why the importance of really valuing your mental health, going to therapy, having psychedelic experiences that could ultimately nurture that type of work and focusing, I can go through this and become the better person, the better version of yourself is very important.

You were talking about right now body perceptions. It is not the notion that I look at myself and I’m eating badly, I’m not exercising, I’m not reading, I’m not doing anything that I know is positive for myself, therefore I have an image of myself that I may not feel comfortable with and I’m telling you, “No, look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about it. That’s not what we’re saying. The notion is have the ability to objectively look at your life, value what you want, and if that is the case, work for it.

In a lot of these instances is exercise. What you need to start loving is the process. It’s loving yourself or wanting to have realized that and then working towards it. Not to have the perfect body, not to be the smartest person in the room, but for you to have perceived it, therefore worked on it. That’s what I personally see as the biggest commonality between the most successful people that I’ve been meeting, whether they’re neuroscientists, whether they’re business people, whether they’re people working in crypto, whether they’re people working in education, professors, athletes. It’s that perception of, “I’ve realized I want to change it, therefore I do.”

If you don’t have those three components and you realize of it and then you complain or accept it, it won’t change. You will forever be in acceptance of grief, you will forever be in acceptance of pain, you’ll forever be in acceptance of lack of acceptance to a group or lack of purpose, but if you realize of that lack and then start working on it, that’s when you actually start seeing that perceived change. That’s what we’re seeing on the thousands of patients coming into Wondermed. I don’t even look at the scores at times.

If you have a score of 20 in your social anxiety and then you go from a 20 to a 10, you have [unintelligible 00:47:21] anxiety. That is not true. What is it that has happened in your life that you’ve made a change, that you treat your family differently, that you’ve made a decision, that you change your professional career, that you learn a new language, that you get a hobby? That’s the actual change that I’m personally, and the company, and my co-founder, Ryan, and everybody really focus on, how we can really capture the real change of society.

The evidence-based paradigm and why it is often flawed

Ari: Yes. Beautiful. There’s one more cultural narrative that I think is worth speaking to, we’ve touched on briefly earlier in the conversation, and that is this dominant cultural narrative that we have for the last few decades around mood and depression and anxiety in the brain. The cultural narrative is very detached from our actions as people and we have this cultural narrative that we are victims of chemicals in our brains and that there’s nothing we can do about it except take a drug to alter the levels of these chemicals in the brain.

As we spoke about earlier, we know that this is almost entirely nonsense, and this is maybe a bit of a digression, but it also goes to show how much of a facade and how much BS it is that so many people think of this sort of evidence-based paradigm, and now after decades of them pushing this narrative, this serotonin deficiency, chemical imbalance model of depression, decades of research and billions of dollars have been poured into it, including lots of pharma-funded studies that have really set out with the explicit purpose to prove this hypothesis, to support it, to continue to make money off of it, and still the data doesn’t support it.

Yet, how many hundreds of millions of people in the world have been taught since the time they were children to see their moods as something like– they are victims of chemicals in their brain that need to be altered with pharmaceutical drugs. What are the consequences of that on a society-wide level?

Jose: We become sheeps of a system. We’re talking about a people in the millions in this country. I mentioned before the statistic of 96 million prescriptions of benzodiazepine. That doesn’t even take into consideration the millions of prescriptions for antidepressants. One in every four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. You have 45% of them actually seeking [unintelligible 00:50:11] medications.

There is an absolute abundance of people that are under that narrative that, to your point, has been pushed for years, that really is being broken by this new culture of psychedelics by this new industry. What I mean new is not new, is the new acceptance of it, is the new narrative within it. We always talk about this, are you depressed? For the longest time, you go to the doctor and you say, “Hey, I feel a little bit depressed.” They ask a couple of questions, “Here you go, this pill will help you.” What do you eat? What’s your diet like? What’s your exercise routine like? Have you traveled?

Do you have enough money to be economically sustainable on a monthly basis or to support your kids? Are you enjoying what you do for a living? Do you like the place in which you live? There are so many questions that need to be asked about an individual that might be the true cause of whatever deteriorating psychological factor they might be feeling that it’s not a chemical imbalance.

What we push forth, to your point here, is a narrative that is different. I’m actually bringing up a narrative that contradicts my own company in the sense that the medicine that I give you or psychedelics won’t heal you. They are the major catalyst that by through proper integration, proper intention setting, and proper exercises, through the insights that you gather and experiences, you can make change.

The narrative that society has right now, in my opinion, is not rooted in chemical imbalances, it’s rooted in lack of education, it’s rooted in inequalities, in economy, inequalities of opportunity in continuous lies and propaganda on the political side, in continuous fear being pushed by pharmaceuticals, or the insurance industry, or even the financial industry at all times. People are lacking awareness and truth in their education.

I feel very hopeful. I know these are hardcore conversations to be had and realizations to one accept, but the reality is that if that’s the case, we’re free. We have the outermost opportunity and potential to change it, starting with oneself, and then that’d be something that changes others and then others and others and others. Nowadays, the fact that you and I are able to have this conversation and put it out there– Hopefully, there is enough time before somebody starts canceling these type of ideologies.

The most beautiful thing, though, is that they’re true. The moment that somebody starts to realize it, that’s it. You can bring it back. There’s very high difficulty for that to happen. There’s a beautiful example for me that says, always started as a kid, “Why aren’t we all together as a country?” Have different cultures, different traditions, but why aren’t we all supporting each other, creating the most efficient natural resources utilization, being as climate effective as we can be, being as economic opportunistic for everybody as we can be? Why can’t there be this type of improvement for everybody?

I’ve always thought, “I wonder what would happen if a meteorite would come to earth and actually go and hit it.” It would be a point in which all of our fears, all of our survival mechanism, all of our problems would go from one another to an outsider. For somebody that hasn’t studied astrophysics, I always find it so fascinating. We are in the middle of this obscure, endless ocean of nothingness called the universe, with planets, meteorites, energy all over the place and we are completely insignificant in that scale, but yet here in our lives, we focus so much on some things that really shouldn’t even be focused.

We should much more, in my opinion, collaborate that I think psychedelics as a whole in the decades to come will nurture as a thought and will nurture as a change. I’m very excited. In any way, capacity, or form, we want to support and partner with anybody that feels that they have a capacity to change and improve this cooperation. As a fun fact, I want to leave the audience here with an astrophysical fact. That is an asteroid called 99942 Apophis. This is an asteroid that I’ve actually spoken to for quite a while. It’s been known for now-

Ari: It sounds like the name of one of Elon Musk’s kids. [laughter] I think he’s given several of his kids’ names like that. [laughs]

Jose: He might know something that we don’t know, that he’s preparing for something, but this meteorite is actually very fascinating because it’s about the height of the Empire State Building. It’s pretty large in scale. It’s going to cross the earth and the moon in between. It is actually fascinating to think about the distance that the moon has with the earth and the fact that this meteorite is not going to hit us as we expect today, but is going to cross right in between in 2029.

It’s definitely a fascinating element for us to really reflect upon the millions of things that could happen that we have no control of so that we truly focus on the things that we can control, that we should be focusing on to improve each other’s lives.

The Wondermed approach to Anxiety and depression

Ari: Let’s get practical for a moment to finish. What exactly is the service that you offer and who is it for?

Jose: Let’s just start by who is it for? It’s for individuals that they feel that their anxiety or depression has been crumbling upon them, is something in which they feel that their mental health state right now is something that impedes some form of improvement, some form of regular lifestyle, behavior, and they would like to find a solution, even more for people that have tried other forms of medication and they haven’t seen a progress.

It is for people that want to ultimately change. They want to improve in their own mental health. What do we offer and what people would actually be able to attain is going to that is Wondermed as a company, and basically learn about the power of psychedelics, learn about the power of ketamine, and get into a process by which a clinician will deem you eligible to receive ketamine.

This ketamine treatment will be shipped to your home. Very differently from what we have just spoken about of any other medication that you’re just going to pop a pill every day, people are receiving anywhere from four to eight lozenges, depending from what the clinician deems eligible. Each lozenge is an experience of about an hour, and hour and a half.

The nurturing factor of this is that people can personalize when they feel they have the time to create this space in the comfort of their home. Have an ally, whether it’s a roommate, a friend, a family member that could be around the house or around them when they’re going to this experience. Most importantly, have access to a digital set of resources that allows the patient to really nurture that protocol, to create an intention, to have these stock-provoking exercises, to train their meditation, their breath work

We focus in inter-family systems, we focus in CBT therapeutic modalities for people to be able to start changing their habits, most importantly, to have the potential to believe that they can change. The experience itself is incredibly safe. It’s been proven to be safe. We follow protocol, we follow what the clinicians suggest must be done. It is a substance that has been proven already to be incredibly effective at allowing people to improve in their mental health.

The price of it right now is $399 for one month of treatment, something that we’re pushing forward with insurance companies to try to make it even lower. We’re one of the most accessible solutions in the market because as a company, we believe that this is something that people should truly have access to. They can reach out to myself, to you, to anybody that they see within the social media network that works at Wondermed. Reach out for information, reach out for help, and most importantly, they feel cold to go and try the treatment.

Ari: Jose, I want to ask you one more question, and it’s okay if the answer is no. This is not something we talked about beforehand. I don’t know if you have availability of this, but is there any special thing that you might be able to offer my audience?

Jose: Absolutely. I think this is something that we can talk about. I think, for us, this is a very special situation. I think we value a lot of who receives the medicine. 25% of people that come to us seeking the medicine actually are not qualified to receive it. It’s very important to know that Wondermed is here not as a company to give this medicine to anybody that would want to receive ketamine. We are very proud of being able to say that and really nurture that type of filter.

We really value people that come for the right reasons. After having spoken to you here, after having spoken to you before, I think that your community is one that I think would have a very high success rate in terms of understanding why this medicine could be good and beneficial for them. I’m sure that we’re going to be able to do something that you can communicate to them. We can leave it as a surprise, but I can definitely understand how we can find something for them to at least test it out and be able to go and see it as an initial benefit.

Ari: We’ll link up after this call and discuss what that might be. In the meantime, I will link to it at the show notes for this episode, the We’ll put it at the name of your company /wondermed. Jose, this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed this. You’re very articulate and I’m very impressed with your ability to express things that are difficult to explain well.

Thank you so much for your time. This was a lot of fun. I personally enjoyed it tremendously. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing. I’m a big fan and I really want to support this and I will help get the message out with my community.

Jose: Thank you, Ari. The pleasure is mine. Just know that a conversation is between two, so everything is reciprocal here. I truly have enjoyed this personally as well and I look forward to working together.

Ari: Awesome. Talk to you soon, my friend.

Jose: Bye.

Show Notes

00:00 – Intro
00:12 – Guest Intro
03:07 – What is Wondermed?
04:29 – The recent research on ketamine
09:50 – The difference between SSRI and Ketamine treatment for depression
14:50 – Benefits of disassociation
20:25 – How can we be depressed when we are so privileged?
28:13 – The benefits of placebo
30:48 – How cultural narratives shape our experience
40:55 – Ari’s personal experiences with psychedelics
42:37 – How self-destructive thoughts and behaviors can distort our perception of reality
46:57 – The evidence-based paradigm and why it is often flawed
54:28 – The Wondermed approach to Anxiety and depression


Recommended Podcasts

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment

Scroll to Top