Psychedelic Drugs: Potential Benefit for Depression, Anxiety


Psychiatrist James Rucker is making a case for declassifying psychedelic drugs so their therapeutic potential can be studied.

Rucker, an honorary lecturer at King’s College London, believes psychedelics should be classified as Schedule II substances, allowing their medicinal value for psychiatric disorders to be researched.

Since 1967, psychedelics have been classified as Class A, Schedule I substances, making their use for recreational or therapeutic purposes illegal.

“The Western world is facing an epidemic of mental health problems with few novel therapeutic prospects on the horizon,” said Rucker. “The problem at the moment is that we don’t know who would benefit and who wouldn’t. The law does a good job of preventing us from finding out.”

Safe Psychedelic Experience

Though he recognizes psychedelics may be harmful to some individuals, Rucker believes studying their benefits for mental health issues is important.

To ensure the safe application of psychedelics during medical trials, he proposes the following four guidelines:

  1. A trusting relationship between therapist and client must first be established, and the client must be educated about the nature of psychedelic experience. The therapist will also control the context or mindset of the client during the experience, keeping it relevant to therapeutic goals.
  2. The setting of the experience must always be comfortable and safe, and the medical, drug, and psychiatric history of each client must be assessed to minimize the chance of adverse effects.
  3. By limiting treatments to no more than once per week, the risk of addiction is negligible. Many individuals will only require a couple sessions.
  4. Psychedelics should be administered in a controlled setting and only under a trusted therapist’s supervision. A pharmacological antidote to the psychedelic can be available to end the experience, if necessary.

These precautions should allow the safe administration of psychedelics for symptom relief of depression, anxiety, or PTSD. However, fears about using these drugs may be largely unfounded. A study completed by Norwegian researchers concluded that reports of psychedelics’ ill-effects are exaggerated.

“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” said researcher and clinical psychologist Pal-Orjan Johansen.

How Psychedelics Can Help

Symptom relief is possible with psychedelics because they create a state of neural plasticity in the brain, allowing changes in thought processing, perception, and self awareness. They spark insight into problematic cycles of behavior, feeling, and thought.

“These cycles can then be faced, expressed, explored, interpreted, accepted and finally integrated back into the person’s psyche with the therapist’s help,” says Rucker.

Although the use of psychedelics might be a polarizing issue among mental health professionals, those with symptoms unrelieved by prevailing medications or treatment methods may welcome this potential therapeutic option.

Source: Psychiatry Advisor; Science Daily
Photo credit: Hartwig HKD


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