Psychedelic and semi-psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ecstasy (MDMA), and ketamine are currently being studied as potential treatment for conditions that presently lack good and effective medication. The study is spearheaded by a company called Compass Pathways, and is currently in the process of examining how psychedelic drugs can be used as federally-regulated medicine for depression and other similar conditions.
Just recently, the FDA placed psilocybin under breakthrough status, a designation that is intended to accelerate the process of approval for the drug to be used in revolutionary treatments. MDMA was also placed under the same designation last year, with studies from different institutions providing evidence that the substance can help those who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Prior to these new studies, researchers have found it hard to access, much less study, these psychedelic drugs that have been deemed as Schedule 1 drugs with no medical use.
Clinical Trials for Effects on Depression
Researcher who are studying the effects of psilocybin, the main psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, called its effects as similar to a surgical intervention among cancer patients suffering from depression. Depression works in such a way that the brain circuits that are associated with negative emotions become more active, thus weakening the activity in the other circuits that are associated with more positive emotions. According to them, psilocybin is able to restore a kind of balance to that system.
Another team of researchers from Brazil recently conducted the first randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials for a local psychedelic drink called ayahuasca. In 2015, another set of researchers found that a sole ayahuasca session brought about a fast-onset antidepressant effect. Ayahuasca is legal to consume for religious purposes in Brazil, after the country’s federal drug agency concluded that religious group members have experienced certain benefits from taking it, such as feeling more at peace with themselves and God.
Ayahuasca, which is a word from the indigenous Quecha language meaning “the vine of the spirits” is a drink made from two Amazonian plants, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis. The first is a vine found in the riverbanks of the Amazonian basin, while the latter is a shrub with leaves containing the pyschoactive molecule DMT. It has been used for centuries by the people from the Amazonian region of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador for various medicinal and spiritual purposes.
MDMA and PTSD
Another study is looking into the effects of MDMA, also referred to as molly or ecstasy, on people who are suffering from PTSD. Until recently, most of the studies involving MDMA and other psychoactive drugs were ignored because of the war on drugs. However, there has been a noticeable shift in attitudes among researchers, with a gradual acceptance that these drugs may eventually become part of mainstream treatments. The latest published findings of the researchers showed promising results.
The patients who participated in the study showed groundbreaking results – with nearly three-quarters of them no longer satisfying the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Essentially, the drug resolved their symptoms.