While drugs like LSD, mushrooms, and ecstasy sound as though they should be associated with illegal activity, some believe they can serve a great role in medicine, particularly when it comes to mental health and certain kinds of therapies.
A Brief History
The idea that psychedelic drugs may have beneficial impacts is not a new one. For a few decades between 1950 and 1980, unofficial research was compiled on a variety of drugs and therapeutic approaches, most centered on the belief that certain drugs could improve insightfulness, set aside biases, and improve communication. But when these studies involve illicit substances, the studies were undoubtedly hindered and most failed.
Yet recent medical research allowances have allowed for certain illicit drugs to be tested for medicinal benefits and psychedelics are one of them.
Research is now being conducted on these substances, and although most studies have been small and preliminary, they are showing beneficial results with the hallucinogenic drugs that are associated with the conscious experience.
- LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly called LSD, is made from a fungus that grows on rye plants. Known for its role in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 70s, its psychological effects included altered thinking process, visual hallucinations, altered sense of time, and for some, even a spiritual experience. Although the substance is found to be non-addictive, it is still labeled a Schedule I drug. Initial research shows that a combination of psychotherapy with LSD administration may be able to reduce the anxiety created by a terminal illness.
- Psilocybin: Psilocybin is the active and hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms. When consumed, psilocybin, as well as psilocin, create a feeling of euphoria, an altered thinking process, visual hallucinations, an altered sense of time, and, for some, a spiritual experience. Although these psychedelic mushrooms have been used in religious rites and ceremonies since prehistoric times, there is still much stigma involved with their use. Recent research shows that a specific molecule found in these mushrooms may be able to help with alcohol addiction, and the drug has also been associated with treatments in neurological disorders, cluster headaches, OCD, and clinical depression.
- MDMA: Also known as ecstasy, methylenedioxyphenethylamine (MDMA), is a synthetic substance that is associated with both stimulant and psychedelic drug use, as it creates feelings of increased energy, pleasure, distorted sensory and time experience, and feelings of emotional warmth and well-being. It was beginning to be used by psychotherapists through the 1950s and into the early 80s to open up communication and give individuals different perspectives into their problems. Recent research shows that it can benefit certain couples in counseling, as well as have a positive impact on PTSD related symptoms.
Overcoming the Stigma
More research needs done on these chemicals, but for that to happen and for the information to be utilizable, the stigma of these psychedelic drugs needs to change. As these studies continue and new research arises, the clinical application of what science is learning may finally be able to be seen.
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