Written by Jennifer Poo
Currently, marijuana has been studied extensively as a method of medical therapy. The benefits of the drug have been outlined and comprehensive arguments have been made for its use to treat a variety of ailments. With the status of marijuana as an illegal substance slowly being overturned state by state, is it possible there are other illegal drugs with unknown benefits that are not being utilized in the medical field?
There have been studies over the years exploring this question, specifically as it relates to psychedelics. Psychedelics can alter processes in the brain and cause changes in perception . The harms of psychedelics are well known by the general public, such as increased heart rate, anxiety, and panic . However, some have cited anecdotal evidence of the positive effects of psychedelics. For example, Ayelet Waldman, a former federal public defender and novelist, credits a method called “microdosing” with giving her mental stability . Microdosing is, in the case of psychedelics, taking small, regular doses of a drug; the dose should not be too large to cause a hallucinogenic trip, but enough to make someone feel as if they are more productive or mentally healthy .
It should be noted that psychedelics, like all mind-altering substances, carry risks that can affect your physiology and mental health. Still, recent studies have claimed substances such as psilocybin , a mushroom derived hallucinogen, can alleviate the effects of depression and anxiety . Another small randomized controlled trial tested if small doses of LSD could reduce anxiety and depression that often comes up in patients when diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. This study found that the LSD group experienced an improvement in their mood and reduced anxiety; however, the study was unable to determine if the placebo effect was partially responsible .
A meta analysis of randomized controlled trials showed promising results of the effect that LSD could have on alcoholism. Misuse of alcohol in over 500 patients was significantly reduced after doses of LSD after six months; however, after a year, the differences between the LSD groups and control groups disappeared . Studies with psilocybin seemed to have similar effects .
Research on psychedelic drugs is difficult because they are classified as Schedule I controlled substances, which the DEA defines as a substance that has a great potential for misuse and no accepted medical use . To research Schedule I drugs, scientists in America need permission from the DEA to ensure that the scientists can properly store the drugs to protect them from misuse. Because of the potential dangers, research and subjects need to be carefully monitored .
Currently, using psychedelics as a medical treatment is a possibility far off in the future; however, it is a method potentially worth studying. Pilot studies are proving promising, but the illegal status of the drug and the dangers of allowing unsupervised administration of unregulated psychedelics should still be considered.
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