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Are Psychedelics the New Hope for Mental Illnesses?

DISCLAIMER: This article includes the usage of words and information related to psychedelic and psychotropic drugs and DOES NOT intend to encourage anyone to break the law and misuse/abuse the medicinal properties of psychedelic or psychotropic drugs. This article may not be suitable for readers below the age of 18. This article highlights the current state of scientific research on psychedelic or psychotropic substances.

The surging popularity of psychedelics has made it a topic of discussion in psychology and psychiatry. To my amazement, psychedelic drugs have been used throughout the centuries for religious ceremonies and other recreational purposes. These drugs create an altered state of consciousness and various mystical experiences.

Rediscovery of Psychedelics during the 20th century:

During the 20th century, western scientists began to show interest in psychedelics drugs when two unusual new molecules with a striking family resemblance exploded in the west. During this time, Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann in an attempt to create duplicate natural psychedelic substances, was the first to synthesize LSD. With the advent of LSD in1950s, psychedelic found their way into psychotherapy, where LSD was commonly used in psychiatric treatment for a variety of conditions like alcoholism, depression, and other personality disorders.

The other molecule, psilocybin, naturally grown in brown mushrooms, has been around for thousands of years and used by indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central Americans as a sacrament, who also called it the “Flesh of gods”. Twelve years after discovering LCD by Albert Hofmann, an amateur mycologist named R.gordon Wasson sampled these mushrooms in southern Mexico. He published an article, “Mushrooms that cause strange visions” in Life magazine two years later. It seems evident that during the 1950s and early 60s, psychiatric establishments regarded LSD and psilocybin as miracle drugs. The widespread use of these psychedelic drugs gave rise to hippie counterculture and another societal repercussion. Due to legal and social pressures, the government intervened in considerable research on psychedelics and banned these drugs during the 1970s.

In his book ‘How to change the mind’, author Michael Pollan, an activist and journalist, written in the year 2018, brings back psychedelics into the collective attention of the nations. After being underground for 50 years, Michael masterfully guides us through the highs and lows of psychedelics in this book.

The recent growing interest in the studies of psychedelics suggests that psychedelics can help major depression and existential anxiety resulting from a terminal cancer diagnosis. Also, the amalgamation of existing research on therapeutic psychedelics and more significant contact with nature suggests it can effectively treat certain psychological disorders. Some of the most prominent universities are undergoing studies and research for substances like psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA, and LSD. The evidence also shows that psychedelic drugs operate differently than addictive drugs. There are high chances that psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA will be legalized soon for medical purposes and specific therapies. Legalizing these drugs is still on hold unless you are a part of the research.

Ronan Levy, the co-founder of field trip health, says,” When done in the right circumstances, with proper oversight and trained clinicians who can support the experience, the outcomes can be fantastic.” Regardless of these promising clinical trials, Dr Hutson suggests not to try these drugs on your own. Research says these drugs are not for everyone, especially those with a family history of psychotic disorders.

Edmonton-based psychologist Brain welling says,” This is the greatest leap forward in mental health care since the invention of psychotherapy. Though the recent advancements in science and a shift in public perspective over the years have made the comeback of these drugs promising for certain mental illnesses. However, based on the past complex history of these drugs, it’s essential to remove the stigma attached to these drugs in everyone’s eyes. It allows the researchers and clinicians to do their work patiently and hold on to knowing the proper use of these drugs only for medical purposes and not for recreational use.

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