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Rise in Psychedelics as Treatment for Mental Illness

Over the last few years, and especially given the heightened awareness of mental health issues of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a boom in the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illnesses. The drugs often used are Psilocybin (the hallucinogenic chemical found in “magic” mushrooms) and even MDMA, which both have highly stigmatized reputations.

Recent research follows the decriminalization and legalization taking place in some states such as Colorado, and includes work done by Compass Pathways, which uses psilocybin for depression. Another notable clinical trial is the recently published MDMA study treating severe PTSD, whose senior author is Rick Doblin.

The study is a robust example of the trends that have been seen in many smaller studies over the last few years, and FDA approval for the therapies Doblin describes could come as early as 2023. The trial involved controlled doses of MDMA in combination with talk-therapy -- and the results demonstrated a large significant reduction in PTSD symptoms, as well as co-current depression. There were also notably no increased occurrences of suicidality whilst the MDMA trial was occurring.

The shift toward using psychedelics to treat mental health conditions focuses mainly on those with severe mental illness which has proven “treatment resistant” or non responsive to traditional therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication.

These treatment options will likely not become the standard practice for people who struggle with mild depression or anxiety symptoms which may be controlled through talk-therapies or SSRI’ (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.) Though, the results of the Dobin study along with many more like represent a promising arch toward hopeful treatment paths in those that have had no luck with existing options.

On Friday, we’ll overview more of the recent clinical research into this developing field.

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