Therapies — 15 September 2015

Emerging research suggest a growing interest in the use of psychedelic drugs for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction.

As reported in an analysis published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), researchers report some success in management of the conditions with psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs are substances that have a strong effect on one’s “conscious experience,” such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, found in “magic mushrooms,” dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, or “ecstasy”).

“The re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical doors and therapeutic doors long closed,” writes Dr. Evan Wood, professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., and coauthors.

In one small randomized controlled trial, researchers found that LSD-assisted psychotherapy might help reduce anxiety from terminal illness.

Another study, in which psilocybin was used as part of therapy for alcohol addiction, found a significant reduction in the number of days alcohol was used as well as in the amount.

Finally, a small U.S. study of the drug MDMA shows a reduction in PTSD symptoms in people with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

“Continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments,” write the authors.

 A new wave of investigation is revisiting research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these studies were originally disregarded because of study methodologies and ethical breaches.

“Although methodological and political challenges remain to some degree, recent clinical studies have shown that studies on psychedelics as therapeutic agents can conform to the rigorous scientific, ethical, and safety standards expected of contemporary medical research,” the authors write.

Canadian researchers are leading studies that are looking at psychedelic drugs as treatment for addiction and PTSD.

The authors emphasize that the studies included in their analysis are small and the results preliminary; further research is needed to determine if there is widespread clinical application.

This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 9 September 2015.

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