By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel
Since the 60s, psychedelics have had a reputation as drugs that hurt rather than help the mind. New research suggests this mindset could be incorrect.
To the dismay of anti-drug crusaders, studies are finding the drugs on this list to help their users cope with common psychological problems. Simply put; they’re good for the mind.
Scientific American reports that research into psychedelic drugs increased substantially after Albert Hoffman discovered LSD. (1)
The effects of these drugs on anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction (among other mental health issues) would’ve been well-known back then were it not for the “increasing government conservatism” of the time, Scientific American reports. This created a decades-long halt in research. Fortunately, scientists and researchers are once again studying these drugs’ mental health benefits. (1)
The information here suggests we might need to change the way we look at the following psychedelic drugs:
- MDMA (ecstasy)
Considered a psychedelic and a stimulant (2), MDMA’s euphoric effect can potentially treat anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to Scientific American, MDMA induces euphoria and synesthesia as well as feelings of intimacy and connectedness. (1)
By triggering neurons in the brain to release neurotransmitters that spur the release of oxytocin, this drug can treat anxiety and PTSD. Oxytocin reduces fear and helps facilitate trust, thus helping PTSD sufferers work through the painful emotions caused by trauma. (1)
Scientific American reports that researchers are studying the drug’s effects on war veterans, firefighters, and police officers with treatment-resistant PTSD. They’ve found it effective in around 80% of patients when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. (1)
Scientific American describes ketamine as an anesthetic and painkiller that induces a trance-like state in lower doses and hallucinations in higher doses. A “single dose” can relieve symptoms of depression for days after it’s injected. One way it might do so is by strengthening the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus; areas of the brain important to learning and memory. (1)
Drug trials from 2013 and 2014, Scientific American reports, showed ketamine to alleviate “stubborn depression” in 30 to 45% of patients. Its legal restriction is less harsh than that of many other psychedelics, as it’s a Schedule III drug. Because of this, it might be easy for ketamine to enter clinical practice sooner. (1)
Would you be surprised if I told you LSD could treat alcoholism? That’s not all it can do.
Scientific American reports that during an LSD trip, one will experience “intense visual hallucinations”. The drug usually brings bright, vibrant, flashing colors, as well as geometric patterns, unusual perceptions, and an altered sense of time. Among other psychological issues, LSD can potentially treat anxiety and alcoholism. (1)
In 2012, researchers made an analysis of studies from the 1960s and 1970s, Scientific American reports. In doing so, they determined that alcoholics who took the drug decreased their rates of alcohol abuse. The effect would last for months after an LSD trip. PET scans have shown that LSD activates areas in the brain tied to consciousness and emotion; namely, the frontal lobe and the anterior cingulate and insular cortices. (1)
Now on to anxiety. Scientific American reports that in the first LSD-assisted therapy study in 40 years, cancer patients who took the drug were found to have a 20% improvement in anxiety. The anxiety became worse for those given placebos. The small trial made clear the need for more research into LSD’s therapeutic properties. (1)
You probably expected cannabis to be on this list. Although not as strong as the other psychedelics, it provides an array of physical and psychological benefits we can’t ignore. We’ll learn about some of them here.
We’ll start with marijuana as a treatment for depression and chronic pain.
Get Holistic Health reports that many people who suffer from depression use cannabis because it’s proven to create relaxation and enhance your mood. It doesn’t come with the side effects of anti-depressants and other prescription drugs, and it can enhance the quality of life for people suffering from chronic pain. This includes cancer patients and people with arthritis. (3)
Chronic pain sufferers experience physical and psychological pain, Get Holistic Health reports. Thus, reducing their pain and discomfort can improve their mindset and provide a better quality of life. Since the effects are long-lasting (a dose of marijuana, depending on the potency and other factors, can last for hours), patients no longer need to continuously pop pain pills. Not to mention that strong marijuana treats pain all throughout the body rather than in one area. (3)
Get Holistic Health reports that marijuana can also be a potent anti-anxiety medication. Many self-professed introverts claim it helps them come out of their shells and be more comfortable maintaining a social life. Some users who suffer from social anxiety disorders have reported that thanks to marijuana, they can comfortably leave their homes and “lead productive lives”. (3)
Again, this comes without the side effects common in anti-depressants and anxiety medications, Get Holistic Health reports. Marijuana can also help sufferers of chronic illness and insomnia to sleep at night. Without sleep, wellness in body and mind decreases, leading to a weakened immune system and a poor quality of life. (3)
Marijuana can help you sleep without any of the side effects of sleeping pills, so why is it not medicinally legal nationwide? The answers are money and greed (but we’ve already covered that). With all this in mind, we should legalize it now.
Psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms are known to induce powerful psychedelic sensations. As we’ll learn, many have reported profoundly positive experiences with psilocybin that left them with a brighter, healthier outlook on life and the immortality of the human spirit.
Cancer patients have reported less anxiety over the fear of death after a mystical psilocybin experience. In the distant future, it could become legal for the treatment of certain psychological conditions.
Scientific American reports that psilocybin provides spiritual, transcendent sensations, strong visual sensations, and “distortions in time and perception”. Along with depression and other psychological issues, it can potentially treat OCD, PTSD, and anxiety. It does this by binding to certain serotonin receptors in the cortex, which starts a process that decreases brain activity in this area. This can reduce anxiety and symptoms of OCD. (1)
Scientists at the New York University School of Medicine are examining whether psilocybin can help reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Scientific American describes it as “the largest psychedelic study in more than 40 years”. (1)
Vice News reports that through brain imaging tests on cancer patients and sufferers of mental disorders like OCD, scientists are trying to determine how psilocybin affects the brain. Professor of psychiatry at NYU Stephen Ross is leading one of several psilocybin research trials in the US at universities such as John Hopkins, NYU, UCLA, and the University of New Mexico. Researchers have administered “over 400 doses” during these studies. (4)
The purpose of the studies, Vice News reports, is to examine the psychological effects of psilocybin on cancer patients to see if it helps or hurts. According to Ross, preliminary findings have shown an increased positive outlook toward cancer for patients given psilocybin. Some of the thirty patients were given the drug, while others were given placebos. For those given psilocybin, the positive psychological effects from one dose lasted up to six weeks. (4)
Ross reports that those who were dying of cancer and suffered from “terrible anxiety and depression” felt “much better” after receiving the drug. The patients experienced huge levels of reductions in stress, and their outlook on cancer was “profoundly altered”. Interestingly, no bad trips have been reported during all this psilocybin research. (4)
Vice News reports that after being screened for “major mental health issues” as well as addiction, patients who were stable enough to handle the drug were given doses in a safe, proper setting to be studied. (4)
A patient would receive the drug in the form of a pill in a setting that resembled a living room with two therapists present, Vice News reports. He or she would then be given a shade mask and could lie down on a couch while under the supervision of a therapist for around 8 hours. Most patients would seem to be asleep for about 3 or 4 hours before waking up and discussing their experience. (4)
According to Ross:
“What they described was interesting encounters with transcendent forces and journeying to other parts of their lives…
“They would tell you stories of where they’ve been, and since the intention going into experiences was to deal with cancer, it’s no wonder they would come back saying they’ve had these consequential encounters with cancer, seeing cancer inside of them like a black cloud, or having family members enter and hold them, and seeing the black cloud going away.” (4)
Vice News reports that although all psychedelic drugs activate a serotonin receptor in the brain, scientists are unsure what happens next that causes the psychedelic effect. Neuron-imaging is providing more information about how psychedelics alter consciousness in such a powerful way. (4)
It seems from what’s been gathered so far that they put you in touch with the unconscious mind, Vice News reports. The brain tends to “constrain reality”, and psychedelics provide “greater access to perceptive stimuli”. (4)
They essentially open the mind.
We’ve given psychedelics a bad rap, but after decades, we’re finally acknowledging what they can do.
We could’ve let them help people a long time ago, but since research is moving forward now, it shouldn’t be much longer until they’re legalized (medicinally, at least). We’re learning incredible things about them that people would’ve never believed thirty years ago, and we’ll learn more as time goes on.
Hopefully, more research will lead to a sea change in the way society treats psychedelic drugs.
I wrote the following for the 238th issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a written document distributed weekly via email that I offer for $11.11 a month.
Income from the guide helps me get by and ensures I can continue to offer free content, and every subscription is appreciated. The option to subscribe is given below (learn about subscribing with cash/check here).
(1) Roni Jacobson, “Turn On, Tune In, Get Better: Psychedelic Drugs Hold Medical Promise”, Scientific American, September 1, 2014 – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/turn-on-tune-in-get-better-psychedelic-drugs-hold-medical-promise/
(2) “What Is MDMA?”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2006 – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-mdma
(3) “Marijuana and the Mind: The Psychological Benefits of Marijuana”, Get Holistic Health – http://www.getholistichealth.com/9993/marijuana-and-the-mind-the-psychological-benefits-of-marijuana/
(4) Colleen Curry, “Psychedelic Mushrooms Are Being Studied to Help Ease Depression and Anxiety”, Vice News, November 10, 2013 – https://news.vice.com/article/psychedelic-mushrooms-are-being-studied-to-help-ease-depression-and-anxiety
About the author:
I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, revolution, music and the transformative creative force known as love. I run Openhearted Rebel, a daily news blog dedicated to igniting a revolution of love by raising social and spiritual awareness.
I also have a personal blog, Wes Annac’s Personal Blog, in which I share writings related to spiritual philosophy, creativity, heart consciousness and revolution (among other topics).
I write from the heart and try to share informative and enlightening reading material with the rest of the conscious community. When I’m not writing or exploring nature, I’m usually making music.
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