In the modern world, the first-ever antidepressants were initially tuberculosis medications, developed from leftover world war II rocket fuel. In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed Spravato for treating depression. Spravato is a chemical that is traditionally a veterinary anesthetic. Recently it has been recreationally used as a club drug.
Soon many more antidepressants could come from unexpected sources.
During this pandemic period, depression cases have risen sharply. Due to the high infection rates and death tolls, Many people are worried about their health and safety, plus their loved ones. These worries, combined with the daily stressors such as grief, losing jobs, economic/ food & housing insecurities, have led to high suicide rates over the past year.
Besides, the pandemic has put on hold many reliable and joyful distractions, including weddings, spontaneous get-togethers/ family gatherings. Consequently, many healthy people have gone into depression, which has increased the prescriptions and demand for antidepressant medicines.
For some people, antidepressants help keep one away from constant negative thoughts, which are the leading cause of clinical depression. According to 2018 reports, about one in eight people in the U.S. use antidepressants. However, more than one-third of the patients do not get the mood-improving benefits from the medicine’s top antidepressant drug as they are resistant.
Fortunately, such people are not out of options as science is slowly working to help them out. Some chemicals out there can help restore their mood balance and, in exceptional cases, can save their lives. However, these chemicals or drugs are called hallucinogens, a name full of controversy, especially on news headlines.
Among the neuroscience community chemicals such as dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Psilocybin/magic mushrooms, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are accurately known as “serotonergic psychedelics.” Many people do not think that white-coat-wearing psychiatrists can administer these compounds or chemicals as antidepressants outside this community. Instead, they see them as abused recreational drugs.
Recently, researchers in the U.K got the green light to begin clinical trials for DMT as a treatment for depression.
It is evident to any neurosurgeon who has a significant focus on the Striatum that these psychedelic drugs can be the source of a safe and happier future. The Striatum is a part of the brain involved in complex conditions, including depression and addiction.
Furthermore, many states are revising their legal status of Psychedelics. These trends are changing the public’s perception of the usage of psychedelics. Soon many more people could seek psychedelic therapy in psychedelic practice.
Oakland, Denver, and Santa Cruz cities are among the first cities in America that have already legalized the usage of Psilocybin. Oregon’s recently approved Measure 110 decriminalizes LSD. Moreover, Legislation that will reduce the severity of punishments of ownership of psychedelics has been moving forward in Washington D.C., New Jersey, and Vermont.
All these developing measures are based on the drug’s science and not the several beliefs about it.
The stigma on Psychedelics is due to it being a controlled substance. Since their decriminalization in the 1960s, psychedelics have often been viewed as a nuisance and enemy to the people. Nevertheless, before this, the National Institute of Health (NIH) funded over 130 studies, which explored the benefits of psychedelic therapy.
They are currently part of the federal classification of Schedule I drugs, which have hefty penalties for their use and possession. Despite these classifications, scientists have gone ahead to examine the benefits of Psychedelics. Most recent studies have come up with notable conclusions.
One of these conclusions is about the safety of psychedelics. At the right doses, psychedelics are well tolerated. They may produce some side effects such as the perception of illusions, transient fear, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. These short-lived side effects are mild compared to the severity of some common antidepressants’ side effects, such as a change in heart-rate/ blood pressure, withdrawal symptoms, and suicidality increases.
So far, the outcomes for many trials have shown that psychedelics matched with psychedelic therapy can exceptionally treat depression. They even have a faster effect in patients when compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are the present gold standard of antidepressants. A single psychedelic-based therapy session can be very effective, while antidepressants take weeks to relieve one from depression.
A 2019 survey done on almost 190,000 Americans showed that psychedelics’ past usage can significantly reduce the chances of one having suicidal thoughts & actions throughout his/ her lifetime. The survey also showed that past usage of drugs like inhalants and sedatives increased the stakes.
Also, Psychedelic therapy can reverse some common symptoms of other psychiatric conditions. There is evidence that this therapy can treat people with conditions such as anxiety, tobacco or alcohol misuse disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Although it is still unclear how much psychedelics therapy costs, multiple reports show that it can save a patient over $100,000 over 30 years.
Psychedelics are known to have meager addictive potential. Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances. It ranks just below heroin and cocaine in terms of addictive potential. Besides, consuming alcohol contributes significantly to one’s risk of health harm. However, Alcohol and Tobacco are legal and widely accepted worldwide as opposed to psychedelics.
Psychedelics are also safe compounds that possess very low toxicity profiles. In a past report, a woman who had dosed LSD up to 550 times more than the standard dose showed no need for any medical attention. She survived, but she also noticed that her chronic pain condition had reduced significantly after the overdose. As a result, she reduced using Morphine for pain management.
Surely, several people have been harmed while using psychedelics. Most notably, Diane Linkletter, who is a daughter to Art Linkletter, a radio and TV personality. Diane died tragically in 1969 from suicide. She was presumably taking LSD at the time of her death. As a result, Mr. Linkletter became a leading voice in the anti-LSD movement. To date, it is unclear whether LSD was the cause of Diane’s death as no drugs were detected in her autopsy report.
In other documented cases, the victims used psychedelics of undetermined doses. Also, a majority of them used them alongside other drugs.
In the therapeutic context, psychedelics are pure substances that trained pharmacologists and chemists create. The dosages for these substances are carefully calibrated to create the necessary therapeutic effect.
Also, psychedelic drugs are delivered and administered under behavioral psychiatrists’ close supervision, who monitor the patient’s environment and mindset. These measures limit the outside factors that can make the patient react unpredictably and hurt oneself or others.