How psilocybin and other psychedelics are linked to mental health benefits
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07-09-15 Category: Mental Health, Recovery, Therapy


Psychiatrist James Rucker made headlines last month when he called for a systematic amendment for how professionals and other people view certain substances. In particular, the honorary lecturer of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London believes that psychedelics should be reconsidered by the government and classified as a non-dangerous substance. While the idea may seem like a modern marvel, the United States actually has an extensive history with it.

The main issue of contention lies with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. When the Nixon Administration applied this historic reformation, it changed the landscape of drug enforcement in the U.S. for decades to come. In addition to steeper punishments and penalties, the statute outlines and delineates the five major categories or schedules of drugs and other substances. Each schedule is defined by its particular potential for abuse, its level of accepted medicinal use and the safety of using it without harm or dependency.

Under this classification system, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin mushrooms both fall under schedule I, which is reserved for the most dangerous and non-beneficial compounds. Before the act was instated in 1970, a fair amount of academic findings began uncovering a multitude of benefits associated with using different psychedelics. Some notable studies of the time were part of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s Harvard Psilocybin Project, which made one of the first big leaps in dissolving the mystery around hallucinogens.

After the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was enacted, waves of obstacles began bombarding scientists and researchers who have attempted to study hallucinogens. The process to start conducting research is now met with a long line of administrative hurdles. Financial support is also a heavy requirement, as obtaining a license to perform schedule I research comes with a heavy price. Many research benefactors even hesitate to give grants to these studies due to the reputation surrounding psychedelics. This stigma was generated from cultural attitudes during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with President Nixon even calling Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man in America” due to his strong connections to LSD.

Despite these setbacks, some recent studies have overcome the bureaucratic obstacles and published new, influential findings regarding these substances. One 2011 study used psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinatory mushrooms, to treat anxiety in advanced-stage cancer patients. Those administered with a dose of psilocybin reached a significant reduction of anxiety after three months of clinically supervised treatment. In addition, a recent study conducted this year surveyed 135,095 randomly selected Americans and found 19,299 respondents that identified as psychedelic users. Of these users, the resulting reports showed no correlations between using LSD, psilocybin or any other hallucinatory substances in one’s lifetime with a higher rate of mental health problems, including suicidal ideations. Both studies demonstrate a possible pathway for future research to delve into. With a relaxed set of regulations regarding psychedelics, new findings may alter the current image of these illicit drugs.

This phenomenon is not a new one, as a number of illegal substances are now gaining traction in the treatment world. One of the most noticeable trends is the growing research on cannabis and its potential for improved physical and mental recovery. Other narcotic agents under scientific consideration include ketamine for bipolar disorder and MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, for post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, heroin outperformed the current treatment standard, methadone, in terms of reducing opiate addiction.

The legislative landscape of illicit drugs and controlled medication in the United States maintains some strict limitations for progressive research in the treatment field. However, some studies have slipped through the cracks and highlighted some potential benefits. Only time will tell if these innovative findings will make it into practice.

Sovereign Health Group utilizes the most up-to-date modalities and strategies concerning mental health care and addiction. When determining the best plan of recovery for its clients, Sovereign recommends treatments with a high degree of supported evidence. The company also incorporates a range of unique ideologies to satisfy the needs of any individual. If you or loved one needs help with mental health disorders, addiction or co-occurring disorders, please contact our 24/7 admissions helpline online or call us for more information.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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