It is Monday, which means it is time to drag ourselves back to work, and that it is time for another Medication Monday. And today, I want to do something a little different. I want to go outside the normal collection mental health medications one might receive a prescription for, and instead talk about psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD or acid, and psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in magic mushrooms.
These substances are illegal. And part of the reason they are illegal is the stigma that they are dangerous, or that they will lead people to become rebellious, rejecting authority and society at large. This stigma started with a highly negative backlash to Timothy Leary’s infamous “turn on, tune in and drop out,” comment, combined with fears about what we now refer to as ‘bad trips.’
Before that negative stigma started, psychedelic research in the 40’s and 50’s viewed these substances as miracle drugs, capable of treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, alcoholism, and possibly more. It seemed that the future was bright for these little psychedelics.
Yet once public opinion turned against them, research was almost non-existent. That was until 2003, when the FDA started allowing a few controlled studies. And the results of those studies are extremely promising. In one study, cancer patients struggling with anxiety and depression surrounding their diagnosis showed significant improvement vs. placebos. In other cases, microdosing of LSD every few days showed a considerable improvement in mood, energy, and productivity. Microdosing doesn’t result in the hallucinogenic results many are familiar with, but rather seems to simply improve mood, while decreasing symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
Psychedelics also have the benefit of being non-addictive and extremely safe. It is almost impossible to overdose on these drugs. There is a danger of course of people injuring themselves or others while in their altered state. This is not unfounded, given that CIA research into psychedelics, done as part of their infamous mind control program “MKUltra,” resulted in the suicide of Army biochemist Frank Olsen.
However, the MKUltra patients often did not know they were being drugged. And those who had bad trips after using it recreationally often did not use it in a controlled setting. Modern clinical use in control settings eliminates those risks by making sure professionals are the ones administering the drug and seeing the individual through the experience safely.
At the end of the day, these drugs are still illegal. However, as more research comes out, regulators will hopefully allow medical professionals to start administering these drugs in controlled settings. As someone who has struggled with these symptoms for years, I know I for one would welcome any treatment that could improve my symptoms the way these studies suggest. However, only time will tell whether that will ever become a reality.