The classical serotonergic psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline) are not known to cause brain or organ damage and are judged to be non-addictive. They have been used for thousands of years in the Americas for celebratory, religious, and healing purposes.
Over 30 million people currently living in the U.S. have used them. Considering that millions of doses of psychedelics have been used every year for over 40 years, reliable case reports of long-term mental health problems following use of these substances are rare.
Knowing this information, a team of researchers decided to delve further into the relationship between psychedelics and mental health. The Raw Story published an article on data collected from a U.S. government-sponsored survey that shows that the use of psychedelic substances such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote does not increase a person's risk of developing mental health problems.
"Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society," clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said. "Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare."
Johansen, along with fellow researcher Terri Krebs, gathered data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health survey to look at the relationship between psychedelic drugs use and mental health problems. The survey is conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The researchers found that psychedelic use does not indicate an increased risk of developing mental health issues. Rather, people who use psychedelics actually showed a slightly reduced risk of mental illness.
"Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population," said Krebs.
Individual case reports have shown that psychedelic substances can trigger preexisting psychiatric conditions, but unlike scientific studies they cannot be applied to larger populations.
"Case reports of mental health problems following psychedelics are often comparable to case reports of mental health problems linked to intensive meditation, visiting holy sites, or viewing beautiful artwork and sublime natural scenes," the researchers wrote.
Psychedelics are not known to cause damage to the brain or other organs of the body, cause withdrawal symptoms, prompt addiction or compulsive use, or cause birth defects or genetic damage.
There has been a renewed interest in the study of psychedelics in the medical field in recent years. Scientists at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have studied psilocybin, the active compound in "magic" mushrooms. Their research showed that psilocybin can safely treat patients with advanced-stage terminal cancer, including a reduction in anxiety, depression, and physical pain.
Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found psilocybin to promote positive changes in attitudes, mood, life satisfaction, and behavior that last for more than a year.
Preliminary research on MDMA, a substance commonly referred to as "Ecstasy," could help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. MDMA is often classified as a psychedelic, although it is also classified as a euphoric empathogen and stimulant.
Although all of this scientific and anecdotal data has been collected and published, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration currently classifies LSD, psilocybin, and peyote as Schedule I substances. This is a category that is supposed to be reserved for very dangerous drugs with no known medical value.
The study, titled "Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study," is published on PLoS One. For more information about current psychedelic studies, visit the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
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