Before the prohibition, psychedelics were the hottest thing happening in psychiatric research. The mental health community was abuzz over the amazing promise that compounds like LSD and psilocybin showed in helping treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and psychopathology. With the ban on psychedelic science lifted, researchers are once again free to explore the ability of entheogens to temporarily dissolve the ego and to reset the mind. This is sure to open new frontiers in the mental health field.
As the present decade was approaching, Brad Burge, Director of Strategic Communication for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), told the webzine New Atlas, “Within 10 years we are likely to have multiple psychedelic-assisted therapies approved in the US, Europe, and in many countries around the world for the treatment of various mental health conditions.
“As new success stories from treatment with psychedelic therapy continue to emerge, and new scientific evidence continues to be collected from ongoing clinical trials and neuropsychopharmacology research, many more patients will be asking for these treatments. We’ll see multiple forms of treatment centers emerge, including psychiatric hospitals as well as privately owned clinics and independent practitioners. Psychedelic therapy is on track to be the next major breakthrough in mental health care.”
Here’s a quick overview of the main psychedelics we’re likely to see being used for mental and emotional wellness in days ahead:
- Psilocybin’s uses for improved mental health are myriad. Among other things, it can bring relief from depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, racial trauma, childhood trauma, social anxiety linked to autism, and the fear of death. It has also been found to promote neurogenesis: the formation of new neurons in the brain.
- Ayahuasca can be conducive to overall mental wellness by reducing depression, fear, anxiety, paranoia, hostility, social anxiety, and other conditions. It has been hugely helpful to some PTSD sufferers and may also help treat emotional disorders such as bulimia.
- MDMA has been used to treat a whole slew of conditions, including anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and social challenges. Even those who take it without the goal of healing often experience its therapeutic effects, so when used deliberately for that purpose, it can be an amazingly powerful medicine. Small wonder that it’s the main compound that MAPS has been using to lead the charge where psychedelic research is concerned.
- While known first and foremost for its ability to cure addiction, ibogaine has also been linked to the alleviation of PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and cognitive impairment. Some of its users have reported reliving traumatic events from an objective perspective while under its influence, allowing them to let go of the pain associated with those events.
- In many ways, LSD is the original therapeutic psychedelic. From the 1950s to the 1970s, it was used to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and addiction. Researchers are now picking up where those early pioneers left off. Like psilocybin, LSD appears to stimulate the growth of neurons in the brain.
- Yet another psychedelic that has been shown to promote neurogenesis is DMT. With the comparatively short duration of its effects, this so-called “spirit molecule” makes a compelling candidate for use in the treatmentof mental health disorders. Of special interest is its potential as a cure for depression.
- 5-MeO-DMT has been shown to improve mood, satisfaction with life, problem-solving ability, mindfulness, and overall mental health. It can also provide rapid relief from depression and anxiety. The U.K.’s Beckley Psytech has recently been testing the intranasal use of 5-MeO-DMT for the treatment of depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
- Ketamine has proven useful for the alleviation of such conditions as depression, PTSD, OCD, suicidal ideation, and bipolar disorder. In 2019, the FDA approved a ketamine-containing nasal spray for sufferers of treatment-resistant depression.
- A recent study showed that mescaline, the key ingredient in peyote, may be helpful in easing depression and anxiety. The healing value of this medicine appears to be tied to its ability to facilitate mystical experiences, mute the ego, and bring deeper understanding of one’s own mind.
Compounds like ayahuasca, LSD, and ibogaine have shown strong promise in treating addiction. Reset will be covering this in a separate Future of Psychedelics article about physical health.
Researchers are also developing the entheogenic equivalent of CBD: non-trip-inducing psychedelic compounds. A non-hallucinogenic analogue of ibogaine has already been created, and a team at the University of Maryland is working to determine whether non-psychoactive doses of psilocybin can effectively combat depression. Similarly, scientists at New Orleans’ LSU Health Sciences Center have been studying sub-threshold doses of LSD for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Psychedelics for the Masses?
As it becomes increasingly clear that psychedelics will be playing a huge part in the future of mental health, organizations like the California Institute of Integral Studies and New York’s Center for Optimal Living are beginning to train professional psychedelic therapists. The aforementioned Beckley Psytech is also working with the psychedelic education organization Fluence to create the world’s first training program for therapists administering 5-MeO-DMT to patients.
Of course, the growing demand for psychedelic therapy is paving the way for the inevitable merger of psychedelic healing and big pharma—two opposing forces if ever such a thing existed. This carries a number of risks, such as the potential for overpricing of medicines and for the devaluing of entheogens as conduits to the sacred. One can only hope that as commercialism creeps into the higher consciousness movement, so too will higher consciousness seep into commercial culture.
Whatever its pitfalls might be, the forthcoming age of above-ground psychedelic therapy will be an exciting time. Along with facilitating deep healing on an individual level, scientific inquiries into the therapeutic value of psychedelics will surely give rise to new insights into the nature of the mind.
Experiments with microdosing—not to mention good old-fashioned dosing—will provide artists, philosophers, and problem solvers with potent fuel for creativity.
Most importantly, at a time when humanity is literally dying for lack of connection to spirit, psychedelic medicine might just be the healthy dose of reality that the masses so desperately need.
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com