Psychedelics are filling the gaps in modern medicine. Whether it’s MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or magic mushrooms for cluster headache relief, science shows that these are valuable medicines. However, due to lingering stigma from the War on Drugs, these therapies have hard work ahead of them to be viewed as legitimate treatment options.
Psychable is a community that provides education and connects psychedelic-friendly doctors with patients. With institutions such as Abilene Christian University, Psychable is working to debunk myths in favor of science. Below are some of the most common frequently asked questions about psychedelics answered.
What does psychedelic mean?
The word psychedelic primarily refers to traditional psychedelics such as mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT. Other substances with psychedelic and therapeutic properties, such as MDMA and ketamine, are often included. Psychedelic can also describe music or art inspired by psychedelic drugs.
What are the effects of psychedelics?
Psychedelics affect one’s perception of time as well as the senses. Touch may also be heightened, and visual and auditory hallucinations can occur. Psychedelics affect mood, which can cause euphoria, paranoia, and grand realizations about life or one’s sense of self. These latter effects are why people use psychedelics to address the ego, safely work through trauma, and treat conditions such as depression and PTSD.
How do psychedelics affect the brain?
Classic psychedelics work by stimulating the serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor. When psychedelics bind to the 5-HT2A receptor site, they mimic the action of the serotonin hormone, which affects the individual’s mood. For the 5-HT2A receptor, the hosting neuron experiences an increase in excitability, which is an important function of the receptor stimulation. Researchers believe that psychedelics cause neurons in the brain's cortex to fire more easily, which has a disorganizing effect on cortical activity. This catalyzes across the brain, producing visual hallucinations, euphoria, and induction of profound changes in consciousness.
Can psychedelic drugs cause a mental breakdown?
Psychedelic drugs rarely cause mental breakdowns, but they can intentionally bring about drastic changes to the ego. Because psychedelics can open the mind to the subconscious, one may experience uncomfortable feelings or emotions. However, difficult trips can be highly beneficial. A 2016 survey spoke with almost 2,000 people who said they had a past negative experience when taking magic mushrooms. Most people still called the experience both meaningful and worthwhile, and half of such respondents said the experience was one of the most valuable experiences in their life.
This supports the psychedelic community’s expression that “there are no bad trips, only challenging ones.” However, because dosage, set, and setting play such a crucial role in the psychedelic experience, one should only take them under the supervision of a doctor, therapist, or sitter. Additionally, integration work can help people process and learn from challenging trips.
While mental breakdowns are not common, some people are not good candidates for psychedelics. One should review their medical and family history with a doctor before taking a psychedelic, as LSD and other psychedelics can trigger latent mental conditions such as schizophrenia in those who may be vulnerable to these conditions. Research suggests that LSD can induce psychosis. Psychedelics can interfere with mental health (and other) medications, such as double-check a list of interactions before starting therapy.
Are any psychedelic drugs addictive?
Any drug, especially one that produces euphoria, can be abused, but most psychedelics are generally considered physiologically safe and are unlikely to cause biological or chemical dependence or addiction. Despite evidence of their safety and therapeutic benefits, most psychedelics are still under federal prohibition. As a result, many people take them recreationally. These substances can be adulterated with addictive and dangerous drugs such as amphetamines, bath salts, and fentanyl. To ensure the safety of psychedelics, society would benefit from ending prohibition and making safe, legal, and therapeutic use accessible to mitigate such risks.
Where is psychedelic therapy legal?
Ketamine is legal in all 50 states and can be used for psychedelic therapy. Due to the War on Drugs, most psychedelics are illegal in the U.S., which is why people often obtain treatment elsewhere or discretely. However, the future shows promise of change. Oregon legalized psilocybin in November of 2020, and it is decriminalized in a handful of cities. However, it remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level, along with LSD and MDMA.
In 2017, the FDA granted MDMA breakthrough therapy status due to preliminary therapeutic value evidence in treating PTSD. It’s expected to become approved in 2023. Ketamine is currently the only legal psychedelic. It is used off-label to treat depression and PTSD through IV infusions, now available in most major cities. It is FDA-approved for use with a prescription through a nasal spray (esketamine) or lozenges.
To learn more about psychedelics’ safety, history, and future in medicine, join Psychable today.