The old stereotype about psychedelics warned that taking them too much—or possibly even once—may make you go off your rocker and be crazy for the rest of your life. As part of a concerted effort to stigmatize psychoactive drugs in the post-60s era, it was easy for people to believe this. To the common man or woman, a person in the throes of a psychedelic experience did behave in a manner that was shocking and foreign, and often their ideas about society swayed far away from the cultural norm afterward. But after decades of concerted investigation and research by scientists and psychedelic advocates, we have learned that these fears about going crazy from psychedelic use are vastly over-exaggerated, and that for many people, the opposite is often true. In fact, psychedelics are showing huge promise in treatment for mental disorders.
Let’s have a look at some of the most prevalent mental disorders that we face today and see what science has said about utilizing psychedelic therapy in their treatment:
Anxiety & Depression
A large amount of people who have experimented with psychedelics over the years have shared anecdotal stories about how the experience turned their life around in a very positive way, but there is now a large body of research to back up the claim. In one study, psychologist Dr. Alicia Danforth initiated a survey of autistic adults and found that over 70% of them reported an ease in their social anxiety after taking MDMA (also known as Molly or ecstasy), with 15% saying that the benefits continued for years afterward. Additionally, both psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD have been shown in peer-reviewed studies to greatly ease end of life anxiety in terminally ill patients.
OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, is a very challenging condition when it is serious and persistent. A 2006 study by the University of Arizona Medical Center and headed by Dr. Francisco Moreno investigated how psychedelic treatment involving psilocybin might help people affected by OCD, and their results were very positive. Significant reductions in OCD symptoms were reported by every participant in the study, with a majority also saying that their experience was spiritually meaningful as well.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental affliction we hear about all too often these days. PTSD can be triggered by any traumatic experience, but we hear about it most in relation to combat veterans returning home from war, particularly because of the staggering amount of veterans who remain uncured of their PTSD and take their own lives. The good news is that psychedelics are making big waves in the field of PTSD treatment, with MDMA, ayahuasca, psilocybin, and the African psychedelic ibogaine all showing huge promise in treating and even curing this condition. One MDMA study on treatment-resistant PTSD found that 83% of the subjects who took MDMA found it to be significantly effective at reducing their symptoms.
The newly appointed director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli has been turning heads with his take on addiction, calling it a treatable brain disorder rather than a moral failing. Botticelli is right on point, and treating substance abuse is something that properly-administered psychedelic therapy can treat incredibly well. Some of the first formal uses of psychedelics in a treatment context took place in the 1960s and 70s when doctors would recommend LSD to treat alcoholism. A recent meta-analysis of these old studies shows that LSD therapy was highly effective for the majority of these patients. When it comes to harder drug addiction to substances like opiates, ibogaine also is showing incredible promise to address the nation’s growing heroin epidemic.
It’s important to keep in mind that the examples provided here are only a small sampling of the vast body of research on the benefits of psychedelics for treating mental conditions. New research is coming out every day, it seems, as laws surrounding psychedelic research have eased, and organizations like MAPS and Heffter Research Institute continue to probe all of the ways these incredibly transformational substances can be used as medicine for people suffering from mental disorders.
It is also important to always remember that psychedelics are powerful tools that can be dangerous or counter-productive if used in an improper or reckless way. Rather than encouraging self-medication, we need to be supporting this continued research and advocating for the acceptance of psychedelics as healing tools in our laws and cultural perception. If you or someone you know suffers from a mental disorder that is difficult to manage, then you know exactly why it is so important that effective treatments and cures be studied — so these healing medicines can be made available sooner rather than later.