Will Psychedelic Therapy Transform Mental Health Care?

published on October 11, 2017 by Joseph Bennington-Castro in NBC News

Therapeutic ‘trips’ may someday bring relief from addiction, anxiety, depression — and even the fear of death.

In the mid-1950s, LSD and other psychedelic drugs took the medical world by storm — and no wonder. Studies at the time suggested that the hallucinogens were effective against a variety of difficult-to-treat mental health problems, including alcoholism.

The research stalled in the early 1970s, however, in large part because psychedelics had developed a reputation as dangerous recreational drugs and had been reclassified by the federal government as “drugs of abuse” with no medical value.

But research is picking up again, with new trials not just of LSD but also of psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms), MDMA (street name “ecstasy”), and ayahuasca (a South American brew containing a hallucinogen known as DMT). If the drugs prove to be as safe and effective as recent research suggests, we may be on the brink of what some are calling a revolution in mental health care.

“Psychedelics, under carefully controlled conditions, can create experiences of wonder and awe and a connection to a ‘divine realm’ that leads to significant behavioral changes,” says ayahuasca expert Kenneth Tupper, director of implementation and partnerships at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use. “Psychedelic drugs are not a panacea, but the research is showing a lot of promise.”

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