Psychedelics and their Applications in the Treatment of Depression

The article’s context is the use of psychedelic substances for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

What are Psychedelics?

  • Psychedelics are a type of drug that alters a person’s perception, mood, and thought processing while allowing the person to stay conscious and with unimpaired insight.
  • They are non-addictive and non-toxic, causing less harm to the user than illicit substances.
  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) and psilocybin are the two most often utilised psychedelics. Synthetic psychedelics have also been developed by researchers.
  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic chemicals Act of 1985 in India forbids the use of psychedelic chemicals, with the exception of ketamine, which is administered under rigorous medical supervision.

The Evolution of Psychedelics

  • For millennia, humans have used psilocybin and mescaline in ceremonial, healing, and spiritual rites.
  • The current use of psychedelics is often associated with the 1897 isolation of mescaline from the peyote cactus by German chemist Arthur Heffter.
  • Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist, originally synthesised LSD in 1938 while researching chemicals related to ergotamine.
  • Between 1947 and 1967, LSD was widely used as a therapeutic catalyst in psychotherapy, until it was criminalised in the United States due to medical concerns and the Vietnam War.

Psychedelic substance use experience

  • Users report alterations in perception, bodily experience, mood, thought-processing, and entheogenic experiences.
  • The visual domain is the most typically affected by perceptual abnormalities.
  • Visceral, tactile, and interoceptive domains may be included in somatic experiences.
  • Elation, euphoria, anxiety, and paranoia are examples of mood swings.
  • Transcendental and ineffable spiritual experiences are examples of entheogenic encounters.

How do they work inside the body?

  • Traditional psychedelics increase serotonin levels in the brain.
  • The therapeutic effects of psilocybin require a ‘trip’ that is mediated by the activation of serotonin receptors.
  • According to modern neuroimaging, psychedelics promote cross-talk between distinct brain networks, which correlates with the subjective effects of psychedelics.

Can psychedelic chemicals be harmful?

  • Despite 50 years of recreational use, no death from direct toxicity of LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline has been reported in the literature.
  • Acute heart, central nervous system, and limb ischemia, as well as serotonin syndrome, have all been linked to synthetic psychedelics.

What exactly is Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy (PAP)?

  • There are three sorts of sessions in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: preparation, medication, and integration.
  • The patient is accompanied by a male-female co-therapist dyad during the medication session, and a psychedelic substance is provided in a comfortable and well-appointed room.
  • The therapists will listen to the patient for the following 6-8 hours while maintaining a neutral therapeutic position.
  • The therapists work with the patient during the integration session to translate the contents of their psychedelic experience into significant long-term change based on their views and ideas.

Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disorders

  • Psychedelic drugs have been found in studies to have potential therapeutic effects in the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases such as treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • A single dose of psilocybin or MDMA-assisted therapy has been proven in recent trials to reduce depression scores and improve PTSD symptoms in participants.
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