We have known about the potential of psychedelic drugs with mental health problems for some time now. Past research has shown that mentally ill patients who used LSD or other psychedelic drugs saw a reduction in suicidal thoughts and psychological distress. Another study published in 2013 concluded that psychedelics have “lasting” health benefits for mental health.
But in order for these potential therapies to move forward, we have to hurdle the stigma about the psychedelic culture and its association with hippies and rebelling. Currently, similar to marijuana research, studying any type of illegal psychedelic drug is often met with backlash, rejection, or tight regulations, making it difficult for scientists to move forward in an effective way.
But that might finally be changing, thanks to progressing opinions among psychiatrists, and new research out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The analysis, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), reviewed several small studies involving psychedelics and concluded that these drugs should be brought more into the spotlight in the field of psychotherapy.
“The re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical doors and therapeutic doors long closed,” Dr. Evan Wood, professor of medicine and Canada research chair at the University of British Columbia, said in the press release.
The analysis reviewed a small randomized controlled trial that had concluded that psychotherapy in collaboration with LSD could reduce anxiety caused by terminal illness. The researchers also reviewed a small study in which a specific active molecule in mushrooms, or “shrooms,” was used to treat alcohol addiction effectively. Finally, they analyzed a third small study that showed MDMA (ecstasy) lowered PTSD symptoms in people who had chronic PTSD.
“Continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments,” the authors wrote.
Even the American Psychological Association has noted “the benefits of these illegal drugs may outweigh the risks in certain scenarios,” and “the drugs may help improve functioning and lift the spirits of those with cancer and other terminal diseases, as well as help treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Ultimately, the next steps are to remove the stigma and barriers to new research around illegal drugs. But the authors of the study believe there’s hope for that.
“Although methodological and political challenges remain to some degree, recent clinical studies have shown that studies on psychedelics as therapeutic agents can conform to the rigorous scientific, ethical, and safety standards expected of contemporary medical research,” they wrote.