Research on drugs like marijuana, LSD and psilocybin may be the path to better psychiatric treatments, according to the editors of Scientific American magazine.
Breakthroughs in mental health treatment are at a “virtual standstill,” the editors of America’s most influential science magazine argue in a recent essay.
“As just one example, the antidepressants on the market today are no more effective at reversing the mood disorder than those that first became available in the 1950s.”
But, they note, drugs that have long been banned for their potent psychoactive effects actually show promise in treating a variety of these disorders.
For example, MDMA has been suggested as a treatment for PTSD. LSD and psychedelic mushrooms (psilocybin) have been reported to help with cluster headaches and OCD. And marijuana has shown promise in all of these conditions, plus many more.
Unfortunately, much of this evidence is decades old.
“Through the mid-1960s, more than 1,000 scientific publications chronicled the ways that LSD could be used as an aid to make psychotherapy more effective. Similarly, MDMA began to be used as a complement to talk therapy in the 1970s. Marijuana has logged thousands of years as a medicament for diseases and conditions ranging from malaria to rheumatism.”
The problem today is, the legal status of these drugs prevents researchers from proving their potential in modern medicine. The essay refers to U.S. law as an example, which classifies marijuana, MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin as having no medical use.
“The resulting restrictions create a de facto ban on their use in both laboratories and clinical trials, setting up a catch-22: these drugs are banned because they have no accepted medical use, but researchers cannot explore their therapeutic potential because they are banned.”
Overall, the editors at Scientific American seem to agree with what David J. Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at Imperial College London, concludes in a recent paper on ending the ban on psychedelic drugs.
“Only then,” he writes, “will it be possible to judge whether LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and other highly regulated compounds – subjected to the gauntlet of clinical testing for safety and efficacy – can actually yield effective new treatments for devastating psychiatric illnesses.”