DAA Daily

Psychedelics in Psychiatry

By Ana Chauhan, Chief Editor, The Pawprint

Psychedelics have evolved from their hallucinogenic hippie origins. For the millions that suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental disorders, new controversial remedies are being explored. 

Nature published an advanced phase trial that depicted patients in the US, Israel, and Canada who received doses of MDMA, alongside therapeutic care, were more than twice as likely to no longer have PTSD in comparison to the placebo group. Researchers concluded that the findings of this six-stage trial provided the foundation for this treatment to be successfully used in patients. By 2023, many are hoping that MDMA therapy will be approved. Similar to psilocybin, there is hope that it will be approved not far behind MDMA with data from Johns Hopkins University suggesting it’s four times more effective than antidepressants. 

A 2013 study from the University of South Florida found that psilocybin stimulates neurogenesis- the repair and growth of brain cells in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain responsible for emotion and memory. In the study involving mice, those that were given psilocybin overcame fear conditioning far more than those that were given a placebo. 

A psychiatrist at NYU Langone, Stephen Ross, M.D, conducted a study with distressed terminally ill cancer patients. Half of the patients received psilocybin and the other half received niacin, a drug associated with similar hallucinogenic experiences. Halfway through the seven-week study, all participants switched treatments with neither the researchers nor patients knowing which drug they had initially received. They found that one-time treatment psilocybin quickly brought relief from distress in 80% of study subjects. Researchers concluded that if psilocybin could reduce psychological distress in terminal cancer patients, it could apply to less extreme conditions related to psychological distress.

Dr. Ross hopes that the drug will be legal in the next five years. “If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication—dispensed under strict control—to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients.”

The concern stopping psychedelics from being approved is reports of serious side effects such as an increase in body temperature and blood pressure, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and muscular issues. For drugs such as psilocybin to be approved, they will need to be tested in extensive clinical trials.

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