Research by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has shown that MDMA (Also known as the street drug Ecstasy) assisted psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for people who do not respond to traditional therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder characterized by re-experiencing, hyper-arousal and avoidance symptoms, and is considered a major worldwide public health problem.

An important point to make at this stage is that substances sold on the street under these names may contain MDMA, but frequently also contain unknown and/or dangerous adulterants. In laboratory studies, pure MDMA has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.

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Participants were given MDMA up to a maximum of three times, and in a therapeutic setting (including extended therapy sessions involving overnight stays), so short term effects of the drug could be monitored and long term harm would be unlikely.

In a later study, which followed up all but one of the original participants up to six years after they were treated with MDMA, showed that improvements to most of the participants in the short term persist in the longer term.

Psychedelic drugs have a long history of use in healing ceremonies and in the last few years with the legalisation of Marijuana in some States in the U.S. there has been a renewed interest by the scientific community to research the therapeutic potential of these mind altering drugs.

So I want to share with you the latest research on three of the most common mind altering drugs that science has been investigating as an effective treatment in dealing with mental health issues such as Anxiety and Depression

Ayahuasca

Earlier this year the results of the first clinical trial investigating Ayahuasca, an hallucinogenic plant-based tea, used by Amazonian shamans for centuries, were published in the Brazilian Review of Psychiatry as a treatment for depression.

The preliminary study had a very small sample size of only six participants. The study’s conclusions are further limited by the absence of a placebo group, but they do suggest the plant holds promise as a fast-acting treatment for depression.

How Ayahuasca is known to alleviate feelings of depression is through its active ingredient, the psychoactive chemical DMT (dimethyltryptamine), which is known to induce spiritual experiences and revelations, which allows users to see their life situations from a different perspective.

Larger, placebo-controlled trials using Ayahuasca for depression are already underway.

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Psilocybin & LSD

In 2014 researchers pronounced in an article in the Independent newspaper that ‘Its time to end the 50-year ban on magic mushrooms and LSD and allow potential health benefits to be explored’, and this is exactly what science has started to do.

Psilocybin is the active ingredient in “Magic Mushrooms”

A study by a team of neuroscientists at Imperial College of London illustrated that psilocybin decreased blood flow to certain “hub structures” in the brain, meaning that closely linked brain areas became more loosely connected. The scientists believe that this could potentially show how psilocybin helps patients overcome conditions such as depression, addiction and PTSD, where patterns of thought become so ingrained they are very hard to reverse.

Long viewed as the drug of hippies and the counterculture of the 1960s, LSD seems to be getting a better reputation. With notable users such as Steve Jobs, Jack Nicholson, Eminem, Francis Crick, Aldous Huxley and even Angelina Jolie, the statistical evidence of the long-term effects of these drugs on the body and mental health is too slight to warrant generalization, and what there is does not support the view that they are in any way adverse

A study was conducted earlier this year by the same team at Imperial College London as part of a psychedelic research project, which they say is expected to “revolutionize” scientists understanding of the brain. The team are waiting for funding to come through to complete the study, although the preliminary results are “exciting”.

LSD was the subject of numerous psychiatry research studies in the 1950s and early 1960s. These studies included investigating the therapeutic potential of the “psychedelic” experience in treating chronic alcoholism and mental illness.

A 40+ year follow-up interview study of people who participated in the LSD research of Dr Oscar Janiger, a psychiatrist who conducted studies in Los Angeles from 1954 to 1962 showed that most of the participants LSD experience seemed to have been similar in impact to some interesting entertainment. In contrast, slightly more than one-third of the respondents reported long-term benefits resulting from the LSD experience(s).

So with the advances in modern technology, the results of this latest research could pose some interesting questions!

In my opinion Psychedelics have been misunderstood and misrepresented for decades, so I am as I hope you are, am excited to see what the results of current and further research shows.

Research

The safety and efficacy of ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder: the first randomized controlled pilot study – http://jop.sagepub.com/content/25/4/439.full

Durability of improvement in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and absence of harmful effects or drug dependency after 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamineassisted psychotherapy: a prospective long term follow-up study – http://jop.sagepub.com/content/27/1/28.full.pdf+html

Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin – http://www.pnas.org/content/109/6/2138.full

Implications for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study with psilocybin – http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/early/2012/01/18/bjp.bp.111.103309.abstract

Read more from Expert Dean Griffiths.

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