Psychedelics blasted their way into the public consciousness in the 1960s. They were all the rage among hippies and flower children of that era. Commensurately, they entered the field of drug research around that time; but due to myriad questionable practices, this research was suspended in the 70s.
Research regarding the efficacy of using psychedelics has returned. Several small studies have shown “success” in using these drugs to treat anxiety, depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with very few discernible short term side effects. Current studies look at the benefits of using substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), which is known on the street as ecstasy. The thought is that as medical professionals we will be selling these alternative drugs as new options for treating mental illness and addiction in people who are not benefitting from traditional treatments and medications that are currently available.
The research regarding reduction in anxiety and depression utilized LSD and psilocybin. These studies were conducted in a specific population: those with end-stage cancer or other terminal illnesses. Participants showed improvement without any clinically significant adverse effects.
A variety of psychedelic agents are being studied for use in cocaine addiction as well as alcohol and tobacco dependence. MDMA in specific is being considered as a possible medication option for those with PTSD.
Of course, none of these studies have looked at long-term outcomes. Quick fixes for prolonged problems usually raise a red flag in the recovery professional community.
If we think we currently have a prescription drug addiction epidemic in our country, I shudder to think what is on the horizon when it becomes allowable, and even recommendable, for physicians to prescribe these types of drugs to their patients.