Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Use of LSD and Other Psychedelic Drugs Associated with Fewer Mental Health Problems


Whew. New research has calmed the concerns of many former Dead Heads and psychonauts who likely have been worried that all of those psychedelics they consumed might do strange and unwanted things to their brains. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience (using data from a U.S. health survey) found no link between the use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems. Instead they found some significant associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and fewer mental health problems.

Wooo hooo dude . . .

Here are a few highlights from the study:
The sample consisted of 130,152 respondents, of which 21,979 (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime use of any psychedelic. Compared to respondents with no lifetime use of any psychedelic, respondents with lifetime use of any psychedelic were more likely to be younger, male, white, Native American, or more than one race, have somewhat higher income and more education, not be married, like to test self by doing risky things, experienced an extremely stressful event, and to have used all classes of illicit drugs.
And this was also very interesting (I took out the stats for ease of reading, but all of these findings were statistically significant):
Lifetime psychedelic use was not significantly associated with any of the mental health treatment variables. Among the specific psychedelics there were a number of significant associations with lower rate of receiving or needing mental health treatment. Lifetime LSD use was significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medication prescription. Lifetime psilocybin use was significantly associated with a lower rate of inpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medication prescription. Lifetime mescaline/peyote use was significantly associated with a lower rate of psychiatric medication prescription and needed but did not receive mental health treatment. Lifetime peyote use was significantly associated with a lower rate of psychiatric medication prescription.
I guess that I would be an outlier here. I used all of the psychedelics as often as I could. BUT I also received mental health counseling on and off for years and was prescribed medication for social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, had I not used psychedelics, I may not have stopped using harder drugs and/or I may have never found myself.
Full Citation:Krebs, TS, Johansen, P-Ø. (2013, Aug 19). Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study. PLoS ONE, 8(8): e63972. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063972
Here is the summary of the research from Science Daily. Below that is the abstract and a link to the study, which is Open Access. Please notice how the title reflects the fears people have that psychedelics drugs are dangerous, when they are actually the safest drugs around when in pharmaceutical quality.

LSD and Other Psychedelics Not Linked With Mental Health Problems


Aug. 19, 2013 — The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person's risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

Researcher Teri Krebs and clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, used data from a US national health survey to see what association there was, if any, between psychedelic drug use and mental health problems.

The authors found no link between the use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems. Instead they found some significant associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and fewer mental health problems.

The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE and are freely available online after 19 August.

Symptoms and mental health treatment considered

The researchers relied on data from the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in which participants were asked about mental health treatment and symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions over the past year. The specific symptoms examined were general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.

Armed with this information, Krebs and Johansen were able to examine if there were any associations between psychedelic use and general or specific mental health problems. They found none.

"After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment," says Johansen.

Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

"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," they wrote.

Nevertheless, "recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics," the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, "many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics."

"Other studies have found no evidence of health or social problems among people who had used psychedelics hundreds of times in legally-protected religious ceremonies," adds Johansen.

What's the bottom line on psychedelic use?

Psychedelics are different than most other recreational drugs. Experts agree that psychedelics do not cause addiction or compulsive use, and they are not known to harm the brain.

When evaluating psychedelics, as with any activity, it is important to take an objective view of all the evidence and avoid being biased by anecdotal stories either of harm or benefit, the researchers say.

"Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society," Johansen says, "Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare."

"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.

"Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems," she concludes.

Both researchers were supported by the Research Council of Norway.
* * * 

Here is the abstract of the article from PLoS ONE - follow the link to red the whole article online or to download the article.

Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study

Teri S. Krebs, Pål-Ørjan Johansen

Abstract

Background

The classical serotonergic psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, mescaline are not known to cause brain damage and are regarded as non-addictive. Clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems. Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline. 
Objective

To evaluate the association between the lifetime use of psychedelics and current mental health in the adult population.

Method 
Data drawn from years 2001 to 2004 of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health consisted of 130,152 respondents, randomly selected to be representative of the adult population in the United States. Standardized screening measures for past year mental health included serious psychological distress (K6 scale), mental health treatment (inpatient, outpatient, medication, needed but did not receive), symptoms of eight psychiatric disorders (panic disorder, major depressive episode, mania, social phobia, general anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and non-affective psychosis), and seven specific symptoms of non-affective psychosis. We calculated weighted odds ratios by multivariate logistic regression controlling for a range of sociodemographic variables, use of illicit drugs, risk taking behavior, and exposure to traumatic events.

Results

21,967 respondents (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems. 
Conclusion

We did not find use of psychedelics to be an independent risk factor for mental health problems.
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