Those with long memories remember anti-war protests during the Vietnam Era and how common the use of LSD was. Although there was research at that time into therapeutic uses of psychedelics, the main use was recreational. The world has moved on and to a degree psychedelics have come full circle with research showing therapeutic value of these medicines. So, what are psychedelics good for in the modern era? And how soon will psychedelic medicines enter the mainstream of therapy?
Status of Psychedelics in 2023
The big picture of psychedelics is that medical interest in psychedelics as medicines has been renewed over the past two decades. Conditions such as PTSD, addiction, anxiety, and depression are being targeted with research studies in Europe, Canada, and the USA. A bottom line finding is that psychedelic medicines are effective and have very few or no adverse side effects. Unlike in the 1950s and 1960s the research being carried out today is much more rigorous and safer.
Current Research into Psychedelics
Because psychedelics were labeled as drugs of abuse for decades no research was carried out and very little useful was known. It has only been since recent clinical research studies have been carried out under strict control that psychedelics have been found to be useful as adjunctive therapies along with psychotherapeutics in treating a variety of conditions. What has become clear as studies progress is that psychedelics fit into a niche in the therapeutic realm along with controlled physical environments, therapeutic patient to clinician relationships, and the use of pharmaceutical grade medicines in realized positive and healing therapeutic experiences.
False Public Knowledge of Psychedelics
The uncontrolled use of street psychedelics in uncontrolled and frankly dangerous settings led to and still leads to a host of bad side effects. Street drugs do not have precise doses and commonly contain a mix of ingredients so that one can make little sense of how dangerous these drugs are when used in the pure form and in proper doses. The use of psychedelics by anti-war protesters and others often seen as antisocial persons did not help public perception either. Now that proper research is being carried out in controlled settings with pure medicines and correct doses it has become clear that much of the public’s perception of psychedelics is wrong.
Two Types of Psychedelics
According to researchers this class of drugs can be broken down into classic psychedelics and entactogens. Classic psychedelics currently being investigated include LSD, Ayahuasca, Psilocybin and mescaline. The Entactogen class includes MDMA. Other so-called psychedelics are not really psychedelics. All of these psychedelic medicines function in a similar manner by reducing the fear and anxiety that patients experience when confronting deep seated psychological trauma. There is a long list of bad side effects that goes with this group of drugs when they are used in improper settings, the wrong doses, and mixed with other, dangerous, drugs.
Psychedelics Reduce Anxiety Associated with Terminal Illness
A Swiss study done in 2014 demonstrated the ability of LSD in controlled amount to reduce the anxiety of patients with terminal diseases. As with treatment of other conditions by psychedelics, only one or two doses were required and benefits lasted for a year or more. Subsequently psilocybin was tried in similar situations and was effective in reducing anxiety in patients with terminal diseases with only one or two doses and with benefits lasting a year or more. A study that has yet to be reported is using MDMA and psychotherapy to treat social anxiety in autistic patients.
Psychedelic Treatment of Addictive Disorders
Research into the use of psychedelics with psychotherapy for addictive disorders was carried out as far back as the 1950s and 1960s. This approach resulted in alcoholics reducing their drinking by a half and heavy drinking day by a half. The psychedelic used was psilocybin. More recent research has looked at tobacco dependence and treatment with psilocybin and psychotherapy. At six months post therapy for those who completed treatment twelve of fifteen were not smoking. Studies with ayahuasca have shown similar benefits in reducing tobacco dependence.
Psychedelic Therapy for PTSD
Treatment of patients with PTSD with psychotherapy and adjunctive MDMA have been so successful that the US Food and Drug Administration has given MDMA breakthrough drug status. Studies show that one or two doses and therapy or coaching sessions are all that are needed and that benefits last as long as six years! MDMA is probably about a year away from final FDA approval in regular clinical treatment settings.
Psychedelic Therapy for Depression
Research studies of psilocybin used as adjunctive therapy with psychotherapy or coaching for treating severe depression have been so successful that, as with MDMA, psilocybin has been granted breakthrough drug status and is progressing through clinical trials. Only a dose or two is required and benefits last for years.
At No Fallen Heroes we are dedicated to the reduction and elimination of veteran suicide. Because both depression and PTSD are major risk factors for suicide we are excited about the prospects of these two drugs passing through clinical trials and becoming available outside of research setting for treatment.