7 Things You Need to Know About Psychedelic Medicine

By Tessa Eskin

For a thorough, in-depth treatment of psychedelics, their history, and their current research and medicinal uses, check out PsyTech’s comprehensive course on the fundamentals of psychedelic medicine.

Never before has there been such an urgent need for innovative solutions to the current mental health crisis. Today, mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability in the world, with 1 in 4 people experiencing at least one mental health disorder in their lifetime. Psychedelic medicine is offering paradigm-shifting solutions.

Over 300 million people suffer major depressive disorders, with one third proving to be resistant to common treatments. 35 million people struggle with substance use disorders, and 6-9% of the population suffer from PTSD. Tragically, within the US military, more soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have died from suicide than in combat

And all this was before the global pandemic of 2020. This year alone, the rates of depression tripled in the US. These conditions are pervasive and highly difficult to treat. With too many people falling through the cracks, it’s high time we consider new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of treatment-resistant patients. 

Psychedelic medicine is perhaps the most untapped resource in the fight against mental illness. In fact, psychedelic-assisted therapy has the potential to revolutionize mental healthcare. We believe the greatest barriers to this revolution are stigma and misinformation. Above all, we believe education is the most powerful tool to combat those barriers. 

The time for a paradigm shift is now. 

1. Psychedelics are Schedule I Substances

Psychedelics were officially categorized as a Schedule I substance in 1970, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I is the most restrictive and criminalized category, a designation that has resulted in the spread of misinformation and bias against psychedelics. 

Indeed, the Drug Enforcement Agency would have you believe that psychedelics have no medical use whatsoever, that they are unsafe to use, even under medical supervision, and that they’re a highly addictive danger to society. 

In reality, none of this is true. 

Psychedelics came under attack during the 1960s. The media sensationalized LSD use, propagating the belief that psychedelics had disastrous effects on its users, along with the general fabric of society. The truth is that cases where psychedelics actually caused long-term damage are extremely rare. This narrow view also ignores the extensive amount of research that took place in the ’50s and ’60s, which showed promising therapeutic psychedelic applications in cases of addiction and anxiety. 

The result? Stigma, restriction, and lack of funding drove psychedelic research underground for decades. The nuanced nature of psychedelic medicine was left largely ignored until recent years. 

Today’s research stands in sharp contrast to that narrow and outdated view of psychedelics, as you will see below.

2. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has shown promising results for sufferers of PTSD

Clinical trials suggest treatment that involves psychedelics can be more effective than psychotherapy alone. 

Six Phase 2 studies on the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD have revealed astonishing results. Post-treatment, 82% of subjects showed significant improvements in PTSD symptoms, and over half the subjects no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all. A year later, 67% of the original participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD. 

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: Psilocybin (the active ingredient of magic mushrooms) promotes neurogenesis – the birth and repair of brain cells in the hippocampus. This assists in overcoming fear responses, allowing PTSD patients to break harmful thought patterns and overcome traumatic memories. 

Ignoring the implications of these studies is simply irresponsible and negligent. 

3. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is a remarkably effective treatment for specific addictions, especially alcoholism

A New York University team conducted a randomized-controlled study of psilocybin and alcoholism. Participants underwent a 12-week psychotherapy program, including two psilocybin sessions and a 9-month follow-up period.

As shown in the graph below, the results were significant. Heavy drinking days dropped from 35% to 12%. Days in which participants drank anything at all dropped from 40% to 15%. These studies show undeniable benefits for those suffering from alcoholism, one of the most harmful and devastating addictions.

The groundbreaking research on psychedelic medicine is changing how we treat everything from addiction to depression as well as anxiety to PTSD. Want to learn more? Take our psychedelic

4. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has demonstrated groundbreaking results for smoking cessation

Matthew Johnson, Ph.D. and Albert Garcia-Romeu, Ph.D., along with their team at Johns Hopkins University, are exploring the effects of psilocybin on smoking cessation. 

In their pilot study of 15 patients, each received a 15-week course of cognitive behavioral therapy, including three psilocybin sessions. At the 6-month follow-up, 80% of the participants had quit smoking.

In a more recent follow-up, 60% of the original participants had remained smoke-free after 2.5 years. Compared to the 10% – 20% one-year abstinence rates for typical nicotine replacement options, these results are groundbreaking.

5. Patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression are seeing great results from psychedelic-assisted therapy

Robin Carhart -Harris and Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London conducted a trailblazing study of 12 patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression. Patients underwent two psilocybin-assisted therapeutic sessions. Every single participant exhibited immediate and enduring improvements in depressive symptoms. After one week of treatment, 7 of the 12 achieved complete remission. 

The results are extremely promising, and directly contradict the outdated belief that psychedelics are more harmful to mental health than beneficial.

6. Psychedelics are statistically safer compared to other substances

For decades, psychedelics were portrayed as physically harmful and psychologically fraught. The statistics tell a very different story. Psychedelics happen to be safer than most other substances, including tobacco and alcohol, which are both legal and widely distributed. 

In typical doses, psychedelics are safe to use. Many of the risks involved are actually due to synthetic or imitation drugs that cause unpredictable reactions

Also Read: Ayahuasca, DMT, and LSD – What’s the Difference?

7. Psychedelics are non-addictive

Psychedelics fall very low on the addictive scale. Their addiction risks are significantly lower than nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. LSD in particular is not a physically addictive substance, and there is no reason to believe it triggers impulsive use. 

The truth is, substance abuse disorders today are highly treatable with psychedelics. 

To sum up, the evidence speaks for itself. Psychedelic medicine has and will continue to play a pivotal role in the fight against mental illness. Already, public perception is shifting towards a more nuanced understanding of psychedelics, due to the current resurgence of research. These studies are just the tip of the iceberg, with current trials advancing the fields of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience. In other words, the more we learn, the closer we get to breaking the stigma and giving people the help they really need.

For a thorough, in-depth treatment of psychedelics, their history, and their current research and medicinal uses, check out PsyTech’s comprehensive course on the fundamentals of psychedelic medicine.

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