It seems that all the best news about psychedelics lately is coming from scientists. You know, those people whose job it is to discover the truth even if it flies in the face of cultural and legal prejudices? Turns out the truth about psychedelics is not so convenient for those who insist on banning them.
In a new study, a Norwegian neuroscience team has found that use of psychedelic drugs is not associated with increased risk of mental health problems. In fact, psychedelic users were shown to have a lower risk of mental health issues, including psychosis, anxiety, mood disorders, social phobia, PTSD, and others. More specifically, people who used psilocybin, mescaline, or LSD throughout their lives, or LSD within the past year, were shown to have lower rates of psychological distress, outpatient mental health treatment, and psychiatric medications.
This doesn’t mean that psychedelic trips never cause mental problems. “We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” the researchers write. But on balance, the study shows that people are unlikely to suffer lasting mental health issues due to psychedelic use.
The authors, Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen from the Department of Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, used data on more than 130,000 Americans sourced from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in their study. The full text is available at PLOS One for free.
Dr. Krebs and Dr. Johansen are not new to psychedelic research. Last year, they published a meta-analysis demonstrating clear and consistent effectiveness of LSD as a treatment for alcoholism. And in April of this year, their analysis of survey data concluded that Americans use of psychedelics is just as prevalent now as it was in the 1960s. In that study they estimated that 32 million Americans have tried a psychedelic at some point in their lives. That’s one in every ten people! (What are the other nine doing?)
“People often report mystical experiences as a major reason for using psychedelics,” Krebs and Johansen said. “Archaeological evidence shows that psychedelic plants have been used in the Americas for over 5000 years, and currently around 300,000 people in the US enjoy a recognized religious freedom right to use psychedelics.”
If the stigma of psychedelics making people crazy is not supported by statistical evidence, where did it come from? Mostly anecdotes, say the researchers. “Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population,” Krebs explains.
She concludes, “Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems.”
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