HomeHealthCould psychedelics herald a revolution in mental health care?

Could psychedelics herald a revolution in mental health care?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the most important stories and debates of the day.

Illustration by Alex Cochran for Yahoo News;  photos: Oscar Wong/Getty Images, OsakaWayne Studios/Getty Images, Bloomberg Creative via Getty Images, Yagi Studio/Getty Images and Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

Illustration by Alex Cochran for Yahoo News; photos: Oscar Wong/Getty Images, OsakaWayne Studios/Getty Images, Bloomberg Creative via Getty Images, Yagi Studio/Getty Images and Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

What is going on

Recent studies show that psychedelic drugs have notable benefits for people struggling with a range of mental health issues. Many researchers now believe that drugs like MDMA, ketamine and psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms) could soon be an important tool in the treatment of depression, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety and addiction.

When psychedelics first gained popularity in the 1960s, some scientists saw potential benefits in their hallucinogenic properties. But the drugs were banned nationwide in 1970, halting all research into their possible health effects. Psychedelics are still illegal under federal law, but researchers have had more opportunities in recent years to test their effects in clinical trials.

For some people, the effects of psychedelic therapy have been life-changing. Psychedelic therapy typically involves a patient taking a hallucinogenic drug in the presence of a mental health provider, who guides them through the experience and ensures their safety. The therapist later follows up with “integration sessions” to help patients process their experiences. Experts aren’t entirely sure why this process seems to work so well, but the prevailing belief is that psychedelics can enable the brain to make new connections and reorganize itself in ways that make people more receptive to therapeutic treatment.

Why there is discussion

The most optimistic scientists say we already have enough evidence to show that these drugs could be incredibly powerful tools that could revolutionize mental health care in the US. They argue that we are only at the beginning of understanding how transformative psychedelic therapy could be once the rigid restrictions limiting its availability are lifted.

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But other experts caution against being too hasty in drawing broad conclusions based on the results of small, highly controlled studies that may not translate into the real world. Many worry that the rush to expand psychedelic therapy could increase the risk of things going wrong, create potential opportunities for abuse, and leave vulnerable people crushingly disappointed if this “miracle drug” doesn’t work as well as it does. promised. They also point to enormous questions that need to be answered before a universal strategy for psychedelic therapy can be implemented – including whether people can achieve at least some of the benefits without the guidance of a therapist and how necessary it is for patients during the period of their lives ‘tripping’. experience.

What’s next

Two states, Oregon and Colorado, have decriminalized the possession and use of certain psychedelics, but their use as mental health treatment is still legal only in the context of clinical trials. However, that may soon change. Some researchers are hopeful that the Food and Drug Administration could approve psychedelics for therapy in the US as soon as next year. There is also a bipartisan push in Congress to increase funding for psychedelic therapy research, specifically aimed at helping veterans with PTSD.

Perspectives

Psychedelics are not a miracle cure, but could soon be a powerful mental health tool

“No single group of chemicals can solve the complexity of mental health, which extends beyond the individual mind to include social and political elements. But if recent research holds up, psychedelics could provide much-needed relief while inspiring entirely new approaches to psychiatry.” – Oshan Jarow, Vox

It’s far too early to know how transformative these treatments can be

“Psychedelic research, despite all its promises, is still in the embryonic stage. The studies so far have been small, and while the results indicate that certain substances may be helpful, the findings do not support any claim that these drugs can cure mental health problems.” – Grace Browne, wired

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Psychedelics make patients much more receptive to the things that make therapy work

“Therapy is a social endeavor: a good therapist not only provides insight and tools, but also a relationship in which change is possible. If someone uses MDMA in the presence of a therapist, he or she may feel more supported and safe in this connection, and be better able to recall painful feelings or hard memories without being overwhelmed by fear or shame.” – Rachel Riederer, New Yorker

It would be irresponsible to act too quickly out of desperation

“I understand how desperate many long-term sufferers and their loved ones are to find relief and get their lives back. However, it is urgent that we proceed with caution, because in my opinion we have not done that in the last ten to twenty years with marijuana research. …we find out about some of these serious marijuana risks after the fact. After the horse had already left the stable.” – Lantie Elisabeth Jorandby, Psychology Today

The medications will be most helpful for those who need relief the most

“People who use psilocybin often have experiences with significant insight into aspects of their lives, their relationships and their sources of meaning – who they are as a person and how that has shaped their lives. Those kinds of experiences are an important part of the treatment of people with depression.” – Benjamin Lewis, professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah

Overselling the benefits can cause serious damage

“I think there have been some serious methodological questions about the work being done by leaders in the field and a lot of outrageous and unsupported claims made about what psychedelics could do. …I think this could set potential trial participants (and future patients) up for disappointment, especially if they seek out this intervention because nothing else has worked. … Those kinds of disappointments can be significantly damaging.” — Emma Tumilty, bioethicist, at Women’s Health

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Experts cannot allow the idea to prevail that the drugs alone are a solution

“The biggest threat to a healthy psychedelic future is the fetishization of the drug alone. Whether it is a plant or a synthesized compound of it, there is a story that all you have to do to change your mind is eat something.” – Rosalind Watts, clinical psychologist and psychedelic researcher

There should be a variety of options so people can find what works best for them

“Choosing one ‘right’ path to offering safe, accessible psychedelic therapy is impossible. Everyone can be better served by having options and choices. … Some patients may need a clinical approach or a trained therapist, while others may be fine working with a friend, family member or tripsitter.” —Robert Johnson, Rolling Stone

Psychedelic therapy won’t be a game changer if only a privileged few have access to it

“For people with treatment-resistant depression or PTSD, psychedelics can indeed be a lifeline. The problem is that most people with mental health problems do not have access to medically supervised psychedelic therapy.” –Jules Evans, The Guardian

We need more doctors, support staff and facilities to realize the potential of psychedelic therapy

“These scientific, political and social developments will soon exceed the capacity of the infrastructure needed to deliver on the promise of psychedelics and, perhaps more importantly, to mitigate the risks of use outside of clinical and community support settings. Leading psychedelic therapy organizations… predict a serious shortage of mental health providers trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy.” – Megan Meyer and Victor Cabral, Baltimore Sun

Illustration by Alex Cochran for Yahoo News; photos: Oscar Wong/Getty Images, OsakaWayne Studios/Getty Images, Bloomberg Creative via Getty Images, Yagi Studio/Getty Images and Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

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