Psychedelics for Depression and Anxiety: A List of 4

FEATURED
July 28, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
10 MIN READ

Top points

  • Psilocybin, ketamine, LSD, and MDMA show promise in benefitting people who are dealing with certain mental health conditions.
  • Traditional antidepressants like SSRIs are only an effective method of treatment of depression for 60% of those who take them.
  • Current psychedelic medicines are most effective when combined with psychotherapy.

The research into substances like LSD, ketamine, and psilocybin as treatments for mental health conditions has been growing over the past two decades, increasing their validity for therapeutic use.  

Some psychoactive substances already have well-documented evidence supporting their positive impact on mental health.

Many people who struggle with conditions such as anxiety and depression are not finding substantial, lasting relief from traditional antidepressants and psychotherapy. Could psychedelics be an effective alternative? Below we’ll evaluate the potential of psychedelics in mental health care.

What Are Psychedelics?

In short, psychedelic drugs are substances that can produce mind-altering effects, often resulting in hallucinations and a changed perception of one’s reality.

These hallucinogenic drugs can also alter mood and perception of time. Together, the psychoactive properties of psychedelics can cause a range of effects, from visualizing images to receiving insights, or experiencing a range of emotions.

You may already be familiar with several psychoactive drugs. Here’s a quick list of examples:

  • 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly referred to as “ecstasy” or “Molly” or “E”
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), commonly referred to as “acid”
  • Psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms
  • Mescaline
  • Ayahuasca
  • DMT
  • Ketamine

Many of the above-listed drugs maintain Schedule I status. This classification prohibits medical or recreational use in the United States. As psychedelic research looks deeper into the potential of these substances, some of these may become more legally available.

For example, in November of 2020 voters in Oregon approved a measure to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms in a therapeutic setting, making it the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin.

How Do Psychedelics Work in the Body?

How do these substances create altered states of mind? Though psychedelics have a few things in common, they differ slightly in the way they work. Typically, psychedelics act through neural circuits involving serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. This neural activity on serotonin receptors affects the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for mood, thought, perception, and many other physiological processes.

Once these substances begin working in the brain, they can set off several fundamental physiological effects. Here are a few of the many effects felt after taking psychedelics:

  • A euphoric, dreamlike state
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • An altered perception of time
  • Mystical experiences
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Sudden mood shifts
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Separation from reality
  • Heightened senses

Each person’s experience with psychedelic substances will vary on an individual basis. Many people report psychedelic experiences as pleasant, relaxing, and mystical. Some people may have a less pleasant experience, but with proper preparation and integration, even a challenging or seemingly unpleasant experience can prove beneficial.

The unpredictability of psychoactive drugs is why recreational use is not advised or legal. However, as research advances, the use of more psychedelics under medical observation may offer mental health benefits in the future.

Four Psychedelics Being Researched for Use in Mental Health Treatment

Researchers are currently evaluating a number of psychedelics for therapeutic use. Psilocybin, ketamine, LSD, and MDMA are a few of the psychedelics that could benefit people dealing with certain mental health conditions.

In order to seek FDA approval for medical use, researchers continue to test psychedelic therapy options to confirm their mental health benefits. Here are some of the research findings.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin is the primary active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. This substance’s psychoactive properties have been the topic of study in recent years, as experts in pharmacology seek to determine how this substance could improve symptoms for those dealing with a variety of mental health conditions.

A 2018 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology showed marked reductions in participants’ depressive symptoms for the first 5 weeks post-treatment, with results remaining positive at 3 and 6 months.

When people undergo psilocybin treatment or use it recreationally, the experiences typically last for around 4-8 hours. Psilocybin therapy causes relaxing feelings similar to cannabis, and it can induce introspective revelations. Since it is a hallucinogenic drug, many people also perceive visual hallucinations while under psilocybin’s effects.

Ketamine

Ketamine is a psychoactive drug, but it’s not a traditional psychedelic like the other substances we’ve discussed. One of the main reasons people tend to classify it as a psychedelic is because it induces many of the same effects as psychedelic substances.

A 2019 study  found “one-third of patients with treatment-resistant symptoms achieving remission and ∼50%–75% of patients demonstrating clinical response from a single dose, with higher rates of response and remission with repeated administrations”

Ketamine can help people have profoundly insightful experiences similar to other psychoactive drugs. Its status as a Schedule III drug allows doctors to prescribe it for therapeutic use, making it a legal, groundbreaking option in psychedelic treatment.

Ketamine users typically report a feeling of weightlessness and a sense of separation from their physical body and typical mental patterns. They may also encounter profound spiritual or mystical insights that last even when ketamine is no longer in their system.

LSD

LSD is one of the most well-known psychedelic drugs. Outside of its reputation as a recreational drug, researchers have continued experimenting with LSD to understand whether its psychoactive properties offer substantial benefits.

One recent study from the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions found evidence to suggest that LSD has psychological benefits, particularly in those struggling with alcoholism. Though this study showed the most substantial results concerning alcoholism, LSD may hold further therapeutic potential.

MDMA

Better known via the street term “ecstacy,” MDMA is another break-out substance that could offer therapeutic aid in the future. Currently, MDMA has FDA breakthrough therapy designation to assist in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a 2021 study published by Nature Medicine, MDMA-assisted therapy significantly reduced the symptoms of many people living with PTSD. In the study, 67% of subjects in the MDMA group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. This means that two-thirds of patients who previously had severe PTSD no longer had the symptoms to even qualify as having a PTSD diagnosis after three MDMA-assisted therapy sessions – a result not equaled by any previously available treatment modality.

How Can Psychedelics Treat Depression and Anxiety?

Anyone who has struggled with persistent anxiety and depression knows how daunting it can feel to try medications with little to no success. It can feel like fighting an uphill battle to seek out different options that could benefit your mental health.

As it turns out, SSRIs are only an effective method of treatment of depression for 60% of those who take them. This doesn’t mean SSRIs don’t work, but it does reveal that they do not work for everyone.  

It can also take several weeks to begin noticing the effects of these medications. Psychedelic treatments, on the other hand, often show positive results after one dose, though it is very important to note that the psychedelic is most often accompanied by therapy, in a process called psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy works in a few different ways:

  • The psychedelic drug can often alter the patient’s neurochemicals in a way that facilitates the therapy session.
  • Psychedelics can help bring about meaningful insight-filled experiences that help the patient identify meaning and context for their life experiences and perceptions.
  • Psychedelic medicines can also help influence healthier thought patterns due to their ability to increase neuroplasticity, making one’s thought patterns more flexible.

You’re not alone if you’ve found that traditional SSRI antidepressants don’t work for you. You’re not out of options, either. Psychedelic-assisted therapy could be the route that brings you closer to mental well-being.

What Happens in a Psychedelic Therapy Session?

Within psychedelic therapy sessions, your experience is supported by a sitter to make sure you are safe and provided for while you’re under the influence of the medication. At Nue Life, you also have a pre-treatment consultation with a medical provider and the ability to provide feedback about your experiences throughout your program.

Preparation

Ketamine is already legal for trained medical professionals to administer. On the other hand, therapeutic professionals involved in psychedelic testing for Schedule I drugs go through FDA-approved training programs to ensure safe practices for all involved in these studies.

Psychedelic therapy begins with preparation. This includes setting an intention for your experience and taking the medicine in a physical setting that will help facilitate a positive experience. These are referred to as “set” and “setting.”

Experience

The experience phase of psychedelic therapy may include lying down in a comfortable space where you’ll consume the psychedelic in question. After receiving the dose, you might use an eye mask or specific music to enhance your experience with the substance. This treatment phase can last several hours, depending on which psychedelic treatment you receive.

Integration

Finally, when undergoing psychedelic therapy, you may move to a final phase where your therapist or a trained integration specialist seeks to help you integrate your experiences into daily life. During this time, you and your therapist or integration specialist might discuss insights you encountered during your session that could help promote healthier thought patterns and habits in your life.

How Are Psychedelics Different Than Other Treatments?

Antidepressants and talk therapy are two traditional mental health treatment options that produce results for many people dealing with anxiety and depression. SSRIs focus on blocking serotonin reuptake to free up more serotonin in your nerve cells. This chemical process can positively influence mood and potentially help ease symptoms of depression.

Another option is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Many types of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Talking with a therapist can help you understand your mental health condition further and discuss ways it shows up in your life. Your therapist is also trained to help you find new tools for coping with your mental condition.

If these aren’t working well for you, you don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach. Antidepressants and psychotherapy can be beneficial in combination with psychedelic treatment.

The Bottom Line

There is still a lot to learn about psychedelic treatment and researchers are well on their way to discovering how these substances can help us enhance our mental health. While we don’t yet fully understand why and how all psychedelics work the way they do, current research suggests they hold enormous potential.

If you’re seeking mental health treatment that produces quick and meaningful results, working with trained specialists and medical providers for psychedelic treatment could be a positive next step.

Legal psychedelic treatments, like those provided through Nue Life, could help you get past your depression and move toward the feeling of sustainable wholeness we all deserve. Nue Life provides legally prescribed oral ketamine treatments that you take in the comfort of your own home.

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, meaning that what happens after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to lasting relief.

This article was medically reviewed by Lynn Marie Morski, MD, JD.

Sources:

Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up | NCBI

Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial | Jama Psychiatry

How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials | Frontiers

MDMA-assisted therapy for severe PTSD: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 study | Nature Medicine

Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up | Psychopharmacology

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