According to a study published by researchers at the University of British Columbia it is believed 'psychedelic' drugs such as ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms could treat anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A historical background
The use of psychedelics to treat mental health problems is nothing new. Experiments with psychedelics began in the 1950s. Notable American researcher Timothy Leary advocated the use of psychedelics to treat psychiatric-related illnesses in the 1960s.
However these experiments came to a swift haul when psychedelic drugs were made illegal in 1967.
Fast forwarding to 2015
Fast forwarding to 2015, there now exists a renewed appetite for using psychedelics to treat mental health problems.
The study carried out at the University of British Columbia reveals controlled use of psychedelics does aid people suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD.
Patients participating in the study demonstrated no adverse side-effects as a result of taking psychedelic drugs.
The study analysed data of other experiments conducted in the UK, Canada and US. Researchers stress these experiments were conducted in a highly controlled environment and warn psychedelic drugs would still pose a danger if these controls had not been put in place.
Experiments the study analysed
One experiment successfully reduced terminally ill clients’ disease-related anxiety by giving them LSD.
Another experiments demonstrated the effectiveness of magic mushrooms (psilocybin) for treating alcoholism. Patients who consumed psilocybin saw a reduction in alcoholism-related withdrawal symptoms during detoxification.
Another experiment found MDMA, ecstasy’s active psychedelic chemical, reduced symptoms of PTSD.
Should psychedelic drugs be reclassified?
Dr Evan Wood, Professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, said: “Since the termination of a period of research from the 1950s to the early 1970s, most psychedelic substances have been classified as "drugs of abuse" with no recognised medical value.
“However, controlled clinical studies have recently been conducted to assess the basic psycho-pharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy of these drugs as adjuncts to existing psycho-therapeutic approaches.
“Renewed scientific interest in psychedelic medicine is generating new knowledge about a class of pharmacologic substances that humans have long used for ceremonial, therapeutic and cultural purposes.”
International laws prohibiting psychedelic drugs make research involving humans difficult. However, continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in clients who do not benefit from currently available treatments.
There are now calls within the scientific community to reclassify psychedelics for medicinal purposes akin to pro-cannabis sentiments in the 1980s and 90s.
Since many psychedelics drugs are illegal, large-scale clinical trials are almost impossible.
James Rucker, a psychiatrist at King's College London, urges the British Government to reclassify LSD and psilocybin from Class A down to Class B.
Rucker told Cassiobury Court: “No evidence indicates that psychedelic drugs are habit forming, little evidence indicates that they are harmful in controlled settings, and much historical evidence shows that they could have use in common psychiatric disorders” .