The Psychedelics Being Used to Treat Mental Health Problems
Psychedelic drugs are one of the oldest ways humankind has treated a wide range of conditions, especially those of the emotional and mental kind.
Though psychedelics are reaching another heyday with the rise of treatments derived from magic mushrooms, LSD, and other popular drugs, they were not always popular and were in fact feared for side effects that prohibitionists falsely marketed. But the truth is that most psychedelics, especially those that grow naturally including mushrooms, cacti, seeds, leaves, and trees, have powerful healing properties that can address some of our most difficult and painful mental health problems. During ancient cultures, they were used for mystical and spiritual experiences that also promoted healing. There are also many synthetic and chemical psychedelics, though in this article, we’ll be discussing those that are obtained from natural sources or grow in the wild.
Today, psychedelics have made many hopeful for treating even some of the most difficult mental health conditions; some of these include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, stress, addiction, and much more. They have helped thousands of people around the world, and thanks to decriminalization in some areas, are becoming more accessible.
Here’s a brief guide to natural psychedelics and the mental health conditions they can treat.
Psilocybin, more famously known as magic mushrooms, is a hallucinogen that brings about changes in thought, mood, and perception when consumed. Psilocybin is the name of the key compound in the mushrooms that converts to psilocin in the human body.
There are many different mushroom and fungi species that contain psilocybin, and they can be found all over the world. There are over 50 species, and most of them are from the genus Psilocybe, Copelandia, and Panaeolus. These can be consumed in many ways though the most popular way to consume them is in raw form or dried, drank in a tea, or cooked, though some people already process them into dried material that are placed into capsules for more accurate dosing.
Psilocybin is the most popular psychedelic drug used to treat addiction, depression, trauma, stress, and anxiety. Some patients also take them to cope with end-stage cancer anxiety and terminal illness, and cluster headaches.
It’s also got a record for being the best-tolerated drug in terms of safety. They generally work by activating the serotonin receptors in the brain especially those in the prefrontal cortex; this part of the brain is responsible for regulating perception, cognition, and mood. It induces a range of effects including peacefulness, derealization, depersonalization, and euphoria though some psychedelic experts may recommend regular consumption of psilocybin in specific, controlled doses for a certain benefit such as the treatment of anxiety.
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
LSD, also known as acid, is a potent chemical made from lysergic acid.
Lysergic acid grows in ergot fungus, though it was first synthesized in a lab back in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist. It’s a famous hallucinogenic drug that many “trip” on recreationally especially during the 1960’s and 70’s, though more light is being shed on its healing properties. It is usually consumed as a clear liquid, white powder, blotted paper that is placed sublingually, or capsules.
However, there is growing interest in the potential of LSD for addressing stress-related anxiety.
Consuming LSD has shown to yield positive results in human subjects because if promotes feelings of empathy, trust, happiness, and altruism. It can also be used for treating depression.
LSD works in the human brain by binding to serotonin, and there are also studies suggesting that it can help promote the growth of new brain cells as well as aid it in forming new connection especially in parts of the brain that usually see cell death as a result of mental health disorders. Taking LSD is controlled small doses, known as microdosing, has become a popular practice though LSD is still illegal. While there are some studies on the potentially beneficial effects of LSD and others already self-medicate with it on a regular basis, there’s still more to be understood of its use in a clinical setting though what we see is promising.
Peyote comes from a cactus plant. Its hallucinogenic compound, mescaline, can be consumed directly though it can also be produced in a lab. The cactus grows wild in Mexico as well as in the American Southwest.
Peyote is still illegal but it has been used by the indigenous Huichol people and shamans for promoting spiritual experiences. It’s consumed by harvesting the top of the cactus, known as the crown, which resemble little disc-like buttons. These can be soaked in water to make a tea, they can also be chewed or consumed directly fresh or dried.
There have been studies that show peyote consumption has benefits for those suffering from depression. Since it activates the serotonin receptors, it can make you feel happier. Another study shows that lifetime use of mescaline was linked to a reduction in agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder that causes subjects to see their environment as threatening. Additionally, researchers found that peyote can be beneficial in reducing suicidal rates.
Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink that combines two plants: the ayahuasca vine, and a chacruna shrub which contains DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a hallucinogenic drug. It’s still illegal though it has been traditionally used by shamans in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia as well as other South American nations. In these regions, indigenous peoples have been using the drink to communicate with their ancestors, access knowledge, and heal themselves of others.
Many consider ayahuasca as the mother of all psychedelics. Thousands travel the world each year to South America to take ayahuasca under the guidance of a shaman, but there are also some centers around the United States that enable you to take it in a controlled environment.
Its benefits are far-reaching, with many coming out of ayahuasca retreats stating that it feels like 10 years of therapy done in a weekend. It can treat addiction, deep depression, PTSD, suicidal ideations, and much more.
With the many benefits of these natural psychedelics, it’s easy to see why people are shunning prescription drugs to opt for these instead. If you wish to experiment with them, keep in mind that it’s always best done under the supervision of an expert or medical doctor.
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