How ecstasy and psilocybin are shaking up psychiatry

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: Once dismissed as the dangerous dalliances of the counterculture, these drugs are gaining mainstream acceptance. Several states and cities in the United States are in the process of legalizing or decriminalizing psilocybin for therapeutic or recreational purposes. [...] Several small studies suggest the drugs can be safely administered and might have benefits for people with intractable depression and other psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)...

[...] Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy could provide needed options for debilitating mental-health disorders including PTSD, major depressive disorder, alcohol-use disorder, anorexia nervosa and more that kill thousands every year in the United States, and cost billions worldwide in lost productivity.

But the strategies represent a new frontier for regulators. “This is unexplored ground as far as a formally evaluated intervention for a psychiatric disorder,” says Walter Dunn, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles [...] Most drugs that treat depression and anxiety can be picked up at a neighbourhood pharmacy. These new approaches, by contrast, use a powerful substance in a therapeutic setting under the close watch of a trained psychotherapist, and regulators and treatment providers will need to grapple with how to implement that safely.

A treatment might show benefits in a trial because the experience is carefully coordinated, and everyone is well trained. Placebo controls pose another challenge because the drugs have such powerful effects. [...] And there are risks. In extremely rare instances, psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD can evoke a lasting psychotic reaction, more often in people with a family history of psychosis...

But many researchers are excited. Several trials show dramatic results [...] The current wave of interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics is something of a renaissance. In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists published more than 1,000 articles on using psychedelics as a psychiatric treatment; the drugs were tested on around 40,000 people in total4. Then, as recreational use of the drugs spread, they were banned and the FDA constricted supplies for research.

[...] The drugs “activate a therapeutic, dreamlike state, intensifying sensory perception, and memories pop up like little films”, says Franz Vollenweider, a psychiatrist and neurochemist at the University Hospital of Psychiatry in Zurich, Switzerland, and one of the pioneers of the modern era of psychedelic research. He thinks that this receptive state of mind provides an opportunity to help people escape from rigid patterns of thought, not unlike Rutter’s automatic circuit.

“People get locked into disorders like depression because they develop this system of thinking which is efficient, but wrong,” says David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at Imperial College London [...] Psychiatry has a term for such thinking: rumination. The idea behind psychedelic therapy is that the receptive state that the drug confers opens the door to fresh ideas about how to think about the past and future, which the therapist can reinforce...

[...] Testing these drugs effectively and translating the clinical research into actual treatments will prove challenging, however. Two of the most closely watched studies have grappled with this. ... Evaluating the results won’t be simple. One concern revolves around controls. Most individuals given a placebo will know that they are not receiving a powerful hallucinogen. Some studies evaluating psychedelics have attempted to address this by giving people in the control group a pill containing niacin, which elicits a physical sensation — usually a flushing response in the skin...

[...] Then there’s the training and experience of the therapists guiding both the dosing sessions and the drug-free integration sessions. ... Certification could mean legitimizing therapists who have been ‘treating’ individuals with the drugs illegally for as long as 30 years. But some of these therapists might resist the advice, or the involvement, of a government that has driven them underground.

Approvals still have a long way to go... (MORE - details)
Syne Offline
Therapeutic use should be guided and closely monitored. I use to advise curious people to only try psychedelics if they can handle their own mental shit sober. Obviously that's not the case for depression, psychological problems, and PTSD.

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