Are Drugs The New Mental Health Tool?

Red mushroom beside grass and sticks

Something To Think About

Drugs have such a bad ring to them. When one thinks of drugs, an image of DARE, bad high school kids and people in prison come into picture. This is because we have been conditioned by society to equate drugs with disapproval; we have been turned off to dispose the idea of consumption and view them as dangerous and destructive. But when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, “Please! It’s on me this time.”

With Ketamine approved for depression and psychedelic clinical trials underway around the world, it begs the question, “Are drugs the new mental health tool?” And we are not talking about recreational use. We are specifically referring to medicinal use under medically-controlled environments. Can marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, DMT, Ketamine and others be used effectively to treat mental health conditions such as alcoholism, depression, anxiety, etc?

I hope I have sparked a new curiosity in you. Now it’s your turn to do your own research and convince yourself whether drugs have the potential to provide mental health benefits. Are we doing our due diligence by researching these compounds for therapeutic use, or is this just another excuse to legalize them and get high?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychedelic Momentum

Psilocybin magic mushroom growing in nature

Psilocybin On The Horizon

The first US center for psychedelic research has opened up at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. For over 50 years, psychedelics have been outlawed by the U.S. government and classified as schedule I drugs. Schedule I drugs are regarded as having no medical benefits as per the federal government. Some of these include marijuana, MDMA, heroin and peyote.

This is very exciting news, as just recently the FDA granted psilocybin breakthrough therapy designation for major depression. Psilocybin is the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms or “magic mushrooms.” They have been used for thousands of years by indigenous tribes in South America and by Native Americans in the U.S., for spiritual, medicinal and mystical experiences.

It is not yet known how psilocybin works on the brain and how it potentially helps depressed patients. It is thought that it rewires the brain circuits by shutting down bad connections and sprouting new good ones. Consider this analogy: a person living in the financial distract of Manhattan does not have too much contact with people in the upper west side. But if consistent contact were to be made, a potentially new fruitful connection could be established, benefiting people from both places.

It’s also believed that the actual psychedelic experience of hallucinations in a controlled therapeutic environment, helps patients to confront their demons, resulting in the alleviation of their pain and suffering. This method is much different than your conventional antidepressants, which provide no mystical experiences and take up to 4-6 weeks for therapeutic effects to be noticed.

Psychedelics were once used in the field of psychiatry back in the 1950s, until they were classified as schedule I drugs in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. Psychedelics were never meant to leave the laboratory, but they were unfortunately introduced to the masses, sparking the Hippie movement which glorified the use of psychedelics. In return, this motivated the U.S. government to outlaw the sacred compounds.

These new times are much more promising for the use of psychedelics. The hope is that the evidence will be present in regards to establishing therapeutic value for mental health disorders. Any new tools which can help alleviate the mental health suffering of millions of people around the world, is a step in the right direction!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Microdosing Psychedelics

Psilocybin magic mushroom growing in nature

Benefits Of Magic Mushrooms

A new trend that has emerged in silicone valley in the last couple of years is to microdose psychedelics such as psilocybin (the psychoactive chemical compound in magic mushrooms) and LSD. Microdosing means taking a minuscule quantity of the drug that allows you to still be functional; no hallucinations are experienced.

You may ask, what is the purpose of microdosing psychedelics? While no double-blind placebo-controlled trials have been done, many users report many benefits from microdosing magic mushrooms and LSD.

These benefits include:

  • Increased focus
  • Increased work productivity
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved mood
  • A greater appreciation for life and nature
  • Improved relationships
  • Improved awareness of one’s surroundings

In particular, high doses of magic mushrooms have been shown to help with treatment-resistant depression, anxiety related to terminal cancer, alcohol cravings and a general sense of well-being. Because psychedelics are still classified under Schedule I drugs, no recommendations or advice can be given regarding its use.

But it is interesting to note that psychedelics have been used for centuries by native Indian tribes across the world for medical, spiritual and mystical experiences. It is not physically possible to die from psychedelics; deaths occur if irresponsibility while tripping occurs, leading to trauma or dangerous situations.

Is there a risk to microdosing? The answer is yes. The problem lies with the quantity. Every stem or cap of a mushroom contains different amounts of psilocybin, so even if you take the same size stem or cap as the previous day, there is no guarantee that you will ingest a smiliar quantity of psilocybin.

This becomes a problem because on any given day, what you think might be microdosing, can in fact turn into a full-blown trip while at work, driving or taking care of important errands. This can be very frightening and dangerous because “set and setting” are very important before experiencing a trip.

“Set and setting” stand for one’s mindset and location of where the trip will be experienced. If you microdose and you start experiencing a trip when you did not expect it, you might not be mentally ready when the hallucinations emerge. This can be a big problem!

With the decriminalization of psilocybin in Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California and the push to legalize psilocybin for recreational use in Idaho and Oregon in 2020, it is no secret the psychedelics have hit the mainstream! The question now becomes: will microdosing become a widespread trend and are their any long-term mental health risks?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Will Psilocybin Help With Mental Health?

A man's hand holding magic mushrooms

The Resurgence Of Psychedelics In Medicine

Psilocybin is the hallucinogenic chemical in “magic mushrooms.” It is converted to psilocin within 45 minutes after ingesting the mushrooms. Users start to feel “mind loosening”, increased perceptual awareness, heightened senses, and expansion of consciousness. Psilocybin has been studied for years in clinical trials at John Hopkin’s as well as a recent clinical trial in terminally ill cancer patients at NYU.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been studying hallucinogenic compounds for years; their famous study shows MDMA proving to be helpful for patients with PTSD. The MDMA helps the patients become very relaxed and empathic with the therapist, to the point of feeling extreme comfort reliving their traumatic experiences, and working through their traumatic experiences to help avoid being affected by them. But is there evidence that mushrooms and psychedelics can help the medical field, in particular, psychiatric patients?

Psilocybin and LSD actually used to be utilized in psychiatry in the 1950s and earlier on patients with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and even alcoholics. Alcoholics were given LSD and the trick was to induce a frightening experience or “trip” similar to delirium tremens; a naturally scary hallucinating experience experienced during alcohol withdrawal.

It was shown that after their experience with LSD, many alcoholics refused to consume a drink even two months after the experience; a much better result than any medication assisted treatment present in 2019. Psilocybin has been shown to be effective in terminally ill anxious cancer patients who are afraid of dying; the chemical delivers a profound experience, resulting in increased self-acceptance of their fate, as well as drastically reduced anxiety.

Many people have experienced mystical and profound experiences on psychedelics. They come out of their trip reporting “being a new man”, “having rediscovered myself” and claiming to have their ego dissolved. One famous actor in the past even reported “young women are now very attracted to me.” Will psychedelics be utilized in the near future to help heal all the depression and anxiety which people are suffering from in modern day times? Let’s hope!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)