Hallucinogens Being Studied For Therapeutic Purposes

Researchers are studying hallucinogens and other illicit drugs as possible treatments for conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, addiction and depression, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, researchers are studying whether psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) is effective in treating depression or anxiety after a patient receives a grim diagnosis. Other drugs being investigated at institutions around the country include LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine. “Scientifically, these compounds are way too important not to study,” Johns Hopkins researcher Roland Griffiths, who is conducting the psilocybin trial, told the newspaper.

Griffiths is also studying whether psilocybin combined with cognitive behavioral therapy can help smokers quit.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last January by UCLA researchers found psilocybin improved the mood of patients with anxiety related to a diagnosis of advanced-stage cancer for at least three months.

Dr. Michael P. Bogenschutz at the University of Arizona in Tucson is hoping to study whether psilocybin can treat alcohol dependence. He has applied to the National Institutes of Health for funding.

Other studies underway include:
•    Ketamine, or “Special K,” is being studied as a potential treatment for depression.
•    A nonhallucinogenic version of LSD is under investigation as a possible treatment for cluster headaches.
•    Researchers are studying whether Ecstasy, or MDMA, may help veterans with PTSD.

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    Donna Sesock-Miller

    April 25, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Are these studies being done on human patients?
    If so, then this is appalling in many respects.
    Substitute one drug for another is not a good answer. This is one reason we are considered a drug nation!
    There are more holistic approaches to death and dying, and addictions.

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    Ben House

    December 10, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    I believe the connection is in what is often called the “conversion reaction”. This experience is described in addiction treatment and is finding its way into mental health. The loosening of associations in a guided imagery format facilitates a conversion experience.

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    December 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    There were several interesting and productive experiments done with psychotherapy combined with hallucinogens in the 60’s. These drugs are used legally in Native American religious ceremonies today, and mind-altering techniques have been part of many religions. Without guidance of someone like a therapist or shaman, the hallucinations might be a positive or negative experience. From the experience of a friend who was involuntarily hospitalized at that time as an alcoholic and a lesbian, and cured of neither, many treatments did not go particularly well then.

    Just because a patient takes medication during the course of his recovery does not mean his recovery is not the “right” kind. I assume neither of us are physicians or pharmacists, and there is a big difference between using a therapeutic drug effectively, and using a drug to escape. There are times, though, when we must ask: “Is this appropriate for my condition, doctor”, because I know so many people who have been prescribed benzodiazepines or whatever.

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    November 30, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    What then the next drug to fight the old drug? Will it also clear up all the personal issues that patients have and use drugs to help them escape.

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    November 30, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I did some dissertation research at an alcohol treatment unit in a mental hospital in NJ back in the 60’s. Old patient records showed there had been experiments with LSD on the unit a few years earlier. Staff who had been there during the experiment indicated it had not gone particularly well.

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