When you hear the term “psychedelic drugs” most people associate that with drugs like LSD, or magic mushrooms. You may also know them as hallucinogens. Hallucinogens affect a person’s mind by altering perceptions, moods, and thoughts. Derived from Greek, the word psychedelic means “mind made visible”. These drugs are commonly well known for their recreational uses. But since the early 1940’s, scientists have been studying psychedelics, and are now looking at their potential for treating mental illnesses.

Psychedelic drugs offer new mechanisms to address mental illness, and some have shown promise where other treatments have been ineffective. Here are some examples of the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health illnesses:

  • Psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Psilocybin, sometimes referred to as “magic mushrooms”, comes from certain mushrooms found in the United States, Mexico, and South America. It’s considered the most researched psychedelic substance and is being explored as a treatment for depression, cancer related distress, and different forms of addiction.
  • LSD (D-Lysergic acid diethylamide). Traditionally known as acid, LSD is a clear or white material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on grains like rye. Like psilocybin, LSD is also studied as a therapeutic agent to treat depression, cancer related distress and addiction.
  • MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine).  MDMA, often referred to as “ecstasy” or “Molly”, is a popular synthetic club drug that acts as a stimulant Anna hallucinogen. Researchers are looking at MDMA as a potentially game changing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Ketamine. Ketamine, known on the street as Special K, has traditionally been administered intravenously as a surgical anesthetic in humans and animals. It has also been used in liquid, powder, or pill form. In 2019, a nasal spray form of Ketamine called “esketamine”, won US Food and Drug administration (FDA) approval as medication for depression treatment.
  • Peyote (Mescaline). Mescaline occurs naturally in a small cactus called peyote, but it can also be synthetically made. It’s being investigated as possible treatment for depression, anxiety, and related conditions.

Supportive therapy is essential. Although the research on psychedelic medicine is promising, it’s important to note that these studies involved very careful administration of these drugs in a clinical setting under the supervision of doctors. Currently available research consists of very small, short-term studies, many of which are performed in specific groups of patients, such as people with life threatening illnesses. This means that the findings from these studies may not be applicable to everyone being considered for psychedelic therapies.

Are these treatments right for everybody? People with a history of mania, severe heart disease, or psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, should not be considered for psychedelic therapy. Individuals prescribed psychedelic therapies should always be clinically monitored and should never try to take the drugs on their own. So far, only esketamine has been approved by the FDA as a direct mental health treatment, with ketamine not being classified as a psychedelic, it is prescribed to manage mental health symptoms. Psychedelic therapy research is picking up steam, and more information and options are being learned daily. If you think that you, or someone you know, could benefit from these treatments, Contact Can-Am Interventions, or a mental health worker today.

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