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Psychedelics Don't Cause Mental Health Problems—And They Might Keep You Sane

New study concludes psychedelics do not increase the risk for mental health problems—and links their long-term use to decreased psychological problems.
 
 
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A recent scientific study concluded that the use of psychedelic substances like LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and mescaline (peyote and other cacti)—all classified as dangerous drugs with no medicinal value, or Schedule I substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—does not increase the risk for mental health problems—and the long-term use of some of those drugs was linked to decreased psychological problems.

Researchers supported by the Research Council of Norway published their peer reviewed data online via   PLoS One, in a study titled Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study on Tuesday. The authors analyzed data of more than 130,000 people and found 'no link' between the use of psychedelics and mental health issues.

Previous studies have proven that psychedelic substances do not cause brain damage are non-addictive, and can in some cases effectively treat addiction.

Raw Story reported that clinical psychologist Pal-Orjan Johansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said psychedelic use is overall “considered to pose a very low risk.”

“Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare,” he said.

The researchers drew data from the  U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2001 and 2004, consisting of 130,152 respondents. Those respondents were selected at random to represent the U.S. adult population.

The results revealed 21,967 of those respondents—13.4 percent— reported ever having used psychedelics.

According to the abstract of the study:

“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.”

Research on the potential beneficial uses of psychedelics has been ongoing for decades, and studies increasingly turn over promising results.  

Raw Story reports that scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine “found psilocybin created positive changes in attitudes, mood, life satisfaction, and behavior that persisted for more than a year.”

In addition, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Charles Grob, MD, showed in a 2011 pilot study that a modest dose of psilocybin given to terminal cancer patients under therapist supervision eased anxiety for up to six months. Participants also reported closer feeling of connection to friends and family members.

A series of ongoing medical studies are currently being conducted on LSD-assisted psychotherapy for a series of mental disorders including addiction, and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy particularly for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

April M. Short is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @AprilMShort.