Can Psychedelic Drugs Really Treat Mental Health Disorders? Everything You Should Know

Psychedelic drugs are more likely to be associated with hippies and the counterculture of the 1960s than people in white lab coats and clinical trials.

Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression plague people around the world. Patients experience depressive moods, changes in sleep patterns, and even suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can prevent anyone from leading a healthy, normal life.

As of late, psychedelic drugs have been noted as a viable course of treatment. In this article, we’ll explore how this method compares to other mental healthcare options available.

Typical Treatments for Mental Health Disorders

When patients seek out help for their mental health disorders, they’ll typically receive similar standards of care. After diagnosis, doctors and psychiatrists often prescribe medication. This can include anything from antidepressants to sedatives.

Doctors also often recommend some sort of psychological counseling. By talking to a psychologist or therapist, patients can work through their problems. They can also develop healthy coping mechanisms to help them overcome obstacles.

It is important to note that there are different approaches to counseling. Doctors can recommend one that is best suited for their patient’s situation. 

Why Typical Treatments Don’t Work for Everyone

You might take medications as prescribed. You might attend all of your therapy sessions. You keep an open mind and actively participate. Yet, nothing seems to be helping. Even after altering medications and therapy, you might still find yourself not experiencing any relief from your symptoms.  

Typical treatment methods are often not effective for those with severe mental health problems. Their cases might require a different, or alternative approach. Therefore, many look towards psychedelic drugs to see results.

Psychedelic Drug Use for Treatment

In the 1950s, the medical community conducted research on hallucinogens. They discovered that they were effective in treating many mental health problems. However, by the 1970s, research decreased.

This was largely due to psychedelic drugs’ poor reputation. People saw them as dangerous recreational drugs with no medical value. The U.S. government officially classified them as “drugs of abuse.”  

Psychedelic Drug Treatment Today

Today, there are new trials testing the effects of drugs such as:

  • LSD
  • Ayahuasca
  • MDMA
  • Psilocybin

Under controlled conditions, scientists are exploring whether these drugs can be used to treat severe mental health problems.

MDMA and Psilocybin

LSD’s effects last too long, and ayahuasca is hard to standardize. Psilocybin (in mushrooms) and MDMA (commonly referred to as ecstasy), therefore, are the two main drugs researchers are focusing on.   

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of wellbeing. MDMA actually causes the release of serotonin in the brain. Psilocybin can help with many different disorders and illnesses, but it hasn’t yet received full FDA approval.

If standardized, these treatments will require approval from a doctor. However, these drugs still have not become legal for medical use.

How Psychedelic Drugs Treat Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Studies from John Hopkins and New York University have shown that psychedelic drugs can help “fix” abnormal brain chemistry.

In one study, patients suffering from depression and anxiety were given 1-2 psilocybin treatments. Even after six months, they continued to show improved mental health.

These effects are similar to those caused by legal and approved treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. TMS is known to be effective for people suffering from depression and anxiety because it alters brain chemistry in a positive way.

The Future of Mental Healthcare

Everyone with issues such as anxiety or depression responds differently to standard treatments. Therefore, the medical community will continue to explore all possible options.

Currently, psychedelic therapies are not legally available. Will psychedelic treatments be standardized? Their effectiveness in treating mental health issues is not lost on medical professionals. Researchers will continue to explore their benefits, test them for safety, and push for their legalization.

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