The Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy

During the early twentieth century, psychedelics were mildly used to treat issues such as alcoholism, the war on drugs plagued the usage of psychedelics because of the societal counterculture groups that tended to use them. This led to the prohibition of LSD and psilocybin nationwide in 1968 with no allowance for medical use. Only a few decades later psychedelic therapy gained popularity, the revival of research on therapeutic psychedelics has grown in interest for treatment in depression and anxiety. Scientists have been able to find the mechanics of LSD on the brain, but the true reason of how it does what it does is still not fully understood. LSD works by acting on the serotonin receptors throughout the brain and binding to the 5-HT2A receptors found throughout multiple areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex. The 5-HT2A receptors use two main signaling pathways β-arrestins and G-proteins, but as LSD acts on the receptors it only truly uses the β-arrestinpathways, changing the shape and interaction the receptor has that allows the LSD-25 to be ingested letting the LSD to reach the brain, raising the level of serotonin in the brain as a whole, putting the mind into a hallucinogenic state. Because of the extra boost of serotonin that LSD creates, there has been evidence of psychedelic therapy having great success with those who have chronic depression and anxiety. To allow the positive use of LSD to happen safely, patients are often given microdoses. Microdosing is the process of administering LSD or psilocybin onto a patient in a dose only high enough to see cell response and neurological benefits without harmful side effects or feeling the full effect of the drug. Johns Hopkins University used microdoses of psychedelics (LSD and psilocybin) in a study of the effects on depression and anxiety that can often be developed for patients with cancer. A leading cause of death for patients with cancer is depression, to avoid this, cancer patients are often given benzodiazepines, which is commonly known for the aftereffect of withdrawal abuse. The idea of using psychedelics has allowed doctors to increasingly research psychotherapy, which could lead to better treatment for depression within cancer patients (and those with depression in general). Patients that participated in the study were given a microdose and were put into a controlled environment where they were monitored for what could be almost eight to fifteen hours of psychedelic usage. During a period of six months, doctors recorded the responses of the patients based on what changed for them mentally. A common thread was the reduction of depressive states and anxiousness. The effects of psychedelics and the boost of serotonin allowed for a change in self anxiousness and depression on a physical and mental level for the majority of the patients. Like any other drug, psychedelics have their risks if taken in too high of dosages, but when used in a microdose and in a controlled environment it can be used in a beneficial manner for those struggling with various diseases like depression. The stigma around psychedelics is rapidly changing for the world of psychotherapy, and can hopefully become more openly accepted as the benefits of the substances become more widespread.

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Biology Teacher

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