Psychedelic therapy is an innovative treatment for psychiatric disorders, including mental illness, that uses psychedelic drugs such as MDMA or LSD to induce psychedelic “trips" to help relieve people of their psychiatric conditions. Psychedelic therapy uses hallucinogens that produce a psychoactive response in order to assist the therapist during psychotherapy. With the assistance of a therapist or "guide", patients take a series of journeys, with the intention of making psychiatric breakthroughs.
Psychedelic therapy was largely studied in the 1950s and 1960s, including the work of Dr. Timothy Leary out of Harvard University. During those years nearly 40,000 case studies of psychedelic treatment led to 1,000 papers being published on the subject. In the early 1970s, however, the study of the effects of psychedelic drugs on psychiatric conditions was dismissed and then prohibited due to schedule 1 status applied to LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, as well as cannabis.
Despite the long ban on the studies, new research is being conducted in California to see how psychedelic therapy could continue to help people. Habor-UCLA Medical Center in Southern California is one of the research centers that has begun to conduct FDA approved studies using psilocybin, the chemical in mushrooms that causes pyschoactivity. A recent study conducted by the Medical Center looked at twelve patients with cancer who suffered psychiatric conditions because of their illnesses. The goal of the study was to look at the efficacy and safety of using psilocybin on patients who had anxiety induced by late stage cancer.
One of the patients in the study, Annie Levy, who suffered from late stage ovarian cancer, struggled with all-consuming anxiety and depression after her diagnosis. After receiving treatment, however, she saw the complete disappearance of her anxiety and depression, and her husband Richard said following her treatment, “It was like someone had lit up a lightbulb in Anne’s head. She was a totally different person.”
Another study by New York University and John Hopkins University found an 80% reduction in anxiety and depression when cancer patients were treated with psilocybin. Most of the studies that have been conducted have been focused on the potential for psilocybin to be used in psychedelic therapy, rather than other drugs, such as cannabis.
Psychedelic treatment, though unorthodox, has actually provided many people with relief. In addition, the majority of people surveyed above, a total of 63%, were open to treatment by psychedelics. Surveys have also shown that a higher level of education leads to an increased level of acceptance of treatment by psychedelics, though almost all people who approved of treatment by psychedelics were only were willing to use drugs that were assured to be proven safe to induce the psychedelic therapy.
THC, the psychoactive e component of cannabis has anecdotally shown the ability to have therapeutic benefit for many patients who suffer from anxiety and depression. Certain cannabis products, particularly concentrates like wax, have some of the highest potential to be used for psychedelic treatment due to their high concentrations of THC. Since cannabis is already approved for medical use in many states across the country, it could provide patients with the ability to access psychedelic treatment with a legal medication. Psychedelic therapy could also help people suffering from conditions like PTSD, where we have already seen success with cannabis previously.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies started a small trial at the end of last year to help treat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study, which uses cannabis, is inspired by a previous study that used MDMA. Cannabis could become a valuable resource for psychedelic therapy as more and more people open up to the potential benefits of mind altering substances.