Psychedelic drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms, and others, could be used to treat conditions like anxiety, addiction, and post traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study. After more than 40 years since the first researches were made about the subject, now there is a rising interest in using alternative substances to explore new therapies and treatments.

A team of scientists from the University of Columbia conducted the latest study about the use of psychedelic drugs to treat several mental conditions. It was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Aldous Huxley had a lot of faith in the value of psychedelic  drugs. On the day he died from cancer, in 1963, Huxley asked his second wife to inject him LSD. Credit:
Aldous Huxley had a lot of faith in the value of psychedelic drugs. On the day he died from cancer, in 1963, Huxley asked his second wife to inject him LSD. Credit:

Professor of medicine Dr. Evan Wood, lead author of the report said, “Since the termination of a period of research from the 1950s to the early 1970s, most psychedelic substances have been classified as ‘drugs of abuse’ with no recognized medical value… Renewed scientific interest in psychedelic medicine is generating new knowledge about a class of pharmacologic substances that humans have long used for ceremonial, therapeutic and cultural purposes.”

He added that many side effects, or “bad trips,” happen because of the misuse of the drug. Of course, when a patient will be clinically treated, all of the substances will be under strict control of professionals.

The authors reported that other studies experimenting with human participants in the US, Europe and Canada, have shown that the research can actually be conducted in a safe and scientifically rigorous way.

Many results showed a successful reception towards these new treatments, with significant clinical improvements and very few (or no) side effects.

For instance, one small research determined that psychotherapy involving assisted LSD consumption may help reduce anxiety from terminal illness. Another study, in which the active molecule in “magic mushrooms” was used as part of therapy for alcohol addiction, shows an important decrease in the number of days and quality of alcohol was used. Additionally, a US report of MDMA suggests a reduction in symptoms in people with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

“International drug control scheduling classifications and popular misconceptions about the relative risks and harms of psychedelic drugs make research involving humans difficult. However, continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments,” Dr Wood added.

Early Studies

The initial studies about psychedelic drugs and their effects on treating mental conditions, began in the 1950s through the early 1970s. “In the ’50s and ’60s psychedelics were the cutting edge of psychiatric research,” said Charles Grob, a physician and researcher at UCLA.

However, at the time, people were ingesting these substances with no regulations. Then President Richard Nixon declared drugs as “public enemy No. 1”, and the so-called “war on drugs” began. This gave psychedelics and other drugs a bad reputation and most of them became illegal. Since then, science on these substances were shut down.

Timothy Leary, the man known as the Acid Guru, was a Harvard researcher, who is remembered to call Americans to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, making Nixon label him as “the most dangerous man in America.” He conducted experiments under the Harvard Psilocybin Project and encouraged the use of LSD, but rose a fierce controversy. Experiments using psychedelic drugs continued to grow during the 1950s and 1960s until they were stopped as LSD and other drugs became illegal.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal