Long gone are the days when psychedelic drugs were relegated to shoeless hippies donning daisy chains and ample fringe. Today research is being done on these substances with surprising and groundbreaking results. From easing anxiety to coping with trauma, reducing pain to kicking addiction, there are answers at our fingertips that could facilitate relief for millions of people. Below are some articles that shed light on some incredible progress in this area.
A history of psychedelic drug use is associated with less psychological distress and fewer suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts, according to new research from Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In a national survey of over 190,000 U.S. adults, lifetime use of certain psychedelic drugs was associated with a 19 percent reduced likelihood of psychological distress within the past month, a 14 percent reduced likelihood of suicidal thinking within the past year, a 29 percent reduced likelihood of suicide planning within the past year and a 36 percent reduced likelihood of attempting suicide within the past year. These results were published in theJournal of Psychopharmacology.
The findings suggest that some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs, while illegal, may hold promise for depression, and that these psychedelics' highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific studies, says study author Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins.
While the study authors are not encouraging the illicit use of these substances, "these could be breakthrough medical treatments that we've been ignoring for the past 30 years," Johnson says. "We need to carefully examine these cautiously and thoroughly."
For the study, researchers pooled data from five years of results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008 to 2012) to evaluate the relationship between a history of using certain nonaddictive psychedelic drugs and psychological distress and suicidality. The annual survey, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, estimates the prevalence of substance use and mental illness in the general U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. The study focused on respondents with a history of using nonaddictive psychedelic drugs, which interact with certain serotonin receptors in the brain.
Of 191,382 respondents, 27,235 reported lifetime use of one or more of these psychedelics, primarily psilocybin and LSD. Lifetime use was concentrated among 26- to 64-year-olds and was more common among men; non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans/Alaska Natives; those with greater education and income; individuals who were divorced, separated or who had never married; those with greater self-reported engagement in risky behavior; and those who reported lifetime illicit use of other substances. Among users of these psychedelic drugs, only 240 said they never tried any other illicit drug.
In addition, 12,657 respondents reported psychological distress within the past month, 10,445 reported suicidal thinking within the past year, 3,157 reported suicidal planning within the past year and 1,716 reported suicidal attempt within the past year. Continue reading...
Medical Marijuana: Benefits, Risks & State Laws
by Kim Ann Zimmermann, Live Science Contributor | January 14, 2015 10:26pm ET
Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, and recreational use of the drug is legal in Washington State and Colorado.
Marijuana's medicinal uses can be traced back as early as 2737 B.C., when the emperor of China, Shen Neng, touted cannabis tea as a treatment for gout, rheumatism, malaria and even poor memory, writes Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany who researches drugs and addiction, in "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence" (Oxford University Press, 2005). The drug's popularity as a medicine spread throughout Asia, the Middle East and then to Africa and India, where Hindu sects used it for pain and stress relief.
William O'Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor, popularized medical use of cannabis in England and America after noting its effects in India.
But by the late 1800s, with morphine addiction rampant in the United States, attitudes towards drugs such as marijuana shifted dramatically. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration was formed in 1906. While marijuana wasn’t specifically mentioned in the original FDA guidelines, the move to control chemical substances curtailed its use as treatment.
By 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act [sic] imposed such high taxes on physicians prescribing cannabis, retail pharmacists selling cannabis, and those cultivating medical cannabis that it essentially fell out of favor as a treatment. Keep reading for Health Benefits...
First LSD Study In 40 Years Shows Promising Medical Uses
By Emily Thomas
After a decades-long pause on LSD medical research, the results of the first LSD study approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 40 years have put the drug's potential medical benefits back in the spotlight.
Picking up where the medical community left off in the '60s, scientists recently investigated the effects of LSD-assisted therapy on 12 terminally ill patients approaching death. The findings of this controlled study, published Tuesday in thepeer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, showed that LSD paired with psychotherapy alleviated end-of-life anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illnesses.
Conducted in Switzerland, where scientist Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD in 1938, the study separated the 12 patients into two groups that underwent two preparatory therapy sessions before being administered LSD. For the trial, patients stopped taking any anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications and avoided alcohol for 24 hours prior to the study. One group was administered 200 micrograms of LSD and the other group 20 micrograms (a barely noticeable dosing). Each individual underwent two dosing sessions separated by a few weeks and were assisted by therapists, who walked them through their experiences with the psychedelic's effects. No prolonged negative effects of the drug were reported.
The low-dosage group reported that their anxiety got worse, while the higher-dosage group said their drug-therapy sessions had profound positive effects on their anxiety -- a clinical indication that psychedelic therapy may have potential as a medical treatment. In follow-up sessions, patients reported their reduced anxiety levels were maintained. Keep reading...
From MAPS: We are studying whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can help heal the psychological and emotional damage caused by sexual assault, war, violent crime, and other traumas.
Our highest priority project is funding clinical trials of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as a tool to assist psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Preliminary studies have shown that MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy can help people overcome PTSD, and possibly other disorders as well. MDMA is known for increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others, which could make an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD.
In MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, MDMA is only administered a few times, unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are often taken daily for years, and sometimes forever.
MDMA is not the same as "Ecstasy" or "molly." Substances sold on the street under these names may contain MDMA, but frequently also contain unknown and/or dangerous adulterants. In laboratory studies, pure MDMA has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.