Mental health is just as important as physical health, and healing the mind with psychedelics could very well be the new frontier of mental health treatment. In the U.S. alone, around a quarter of adults will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. Compounding the issue is that we know shockingly little about how the brain works. New and more effective treatments are always in dire need. Disregarding novel treatments is ultimately shortsighted and needlessly puritanical. This article will discuss several ways psychedelics have shown great promise in treating mental illnesses. However, a complete discussion of the merits of using psychedelics for treating mental health disorders is beyond the scope of this article.
Depression is a common mental illness and, according to the World Health Organization, is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Both psilocybin often referred to as “magic mushrooms,” and ketamine, a powerful anesthetic, are being studied to treat depression. Ketamine, in particular, is being heralded for its potential use in healing the mind. As described in the study “Efficacy of ketamine therapy in the treatment of depression,“ “Ketamine has a robust and rapid effect on depression, which was seen immediately after the administration of ketamine and sustained at the end of 1 month.”
Currently, there is no cure for addiction, and treatment is a lifelong struggle for many. However, both Peyote and LSD, as well as psilocybin, look promising in helping people overcome their addictions. Time Magazine even once published an article proclaiming, “Psilocybin Could be a Therapeutic Breakthrough For Addiction.” Further, one of the most prominent figures associated with the recovery from alcoholism, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) co-founder Bill Wilson, was a proponent of using LSD to help trigger the “spiritual experience” necessary to recover from alcohol addiction. It has also been related, perhaps apocryphally, that he wanted to include LSD at AA meetings. However, other members of the organization believed complete abstinence from drugs was more in line with their ethos. Thus, Wilson’s psychedelic leanings have been downplayed over the years.
PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder affects people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event; It is often associated with military veterans. Unfortunately, precise figures for the amounts of veterans who suffer from PTSD are hard to pin down because PTSD wasn’t fully recognized as an illness until the 1980s. Treatment is also still in its infancy. However, there may be some relief thanks to psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. The New York Times article “A Psychedelic Drug Passes a Big Test for PTSD Treatment” discusses a study that showed “two months after treatment [for PTSD using MDMA], 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group.”
And as WebMD states:
“Researchers say MDMA-assisted therapy may have more benefits than any other psychotherapy or medication that’s now used to treat severe PTSD.”
Depression is often treated with SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which can be of limited help in treating depression. And it’s trite to say that treating addiction with more drugs is counterintuitive. We already prescribe medications for various mental illnesses; they just come in pill form. Thus, they’re not “bad drugs.” Further, service members have been mobilizing support to legalize psychedelics for therapeutic purposes in treating PTSD. What is becoming clear is that healing the mind with psychedelics is not pie-in-the-sky idealism and is fast becoming a reality.