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New Study Finds Psychedelic Drugs to Reduce Psychological Distress and Rates of Suicide

Posted January 27, 2015
Perception-altering drugs perform well in yet another psychopharmacology study. Image credit: Wolfgangbeyer via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Perception-altering drugs perform well in yet another psychopharmacology study. Image credit: Wolfgangbeyer via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Past research indicates that the so-called “classic psychedelics”, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and mescaline, may be protective against certain mental health complications and – according to a new paper, released in the Journal of Psychopharmacology – even suicidal ideation and actual suicide attempts.

“Despite advances in mental health treatments, suicide rates generally have not declined in the past 60 years. Novel and potentially more effective interventions need to be explored,” said Peter S. Hendricks, PhD, assistant professor at the Department of Health Behaviour and lead author of the paper.

“This study sets the stage for future research to test the efficacy of classic psychedelics in addressing suicidality as well as pathologies associated with increased suicide risk (e.g., affective disturbance, addiction and impulsive-aggressive personality traits).”

Combing through the data gathered from over 190.000 respondents of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (conducted in 2008-2012), Hendricks and his team found that those who took psychedelics at least once in their life were 29 percent less likely to plan and 36 per cent less likely to attempt suicide in the past year.

Unperturbed by the failure to identify an underlying mechanism for the effect, Hendricks et. al. claimed that no single study is ever going to answer every question: “… we need to be able to go where these studies lead us. Right now that suggests that these substances can be protective for mental health.”

By ramping up brain activity, psychedelic drugs induce a heightened state of awareness and sensory perception, which allow the person to see his/her own thoughts and behaviours from a different perspective.

Research has showed that taking LSD can permanently decrease the levels of stress and anxiety even in terminally ill patients.

“The mechanisms we are talking about are mystical experience that can be transformative,” claimed Hendricks. “It can be an epiphany, like Ebenezer Scrooge. Your personality, your values, and your mood can change in a very short amount of time.”

Study authors hope that the growing body of research on psychedelics will convince authorities around the world to loosen research protocols, allowing for a more thorough examination of these potentially life-saving substances.


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