What is the relationship between psychedelic drugs and mental health disorders? Over 30 million Americans abuse psychedelic drugs, like LSD, psilocybin and DMT. The majority of these users are abusing the drugs to trigger a psychedelic experience or hallucination.
But, can this type of drug use lead to mental disorders and illnesses? Do these drugs contribute to the growing amount of Americans who struggle with some type of mental health issue?
We’ll explore these questions in detail here.
What Are Psychedelics?
Psychedelics are drugs that cause visual and auditory hallucinations and an altered state of mind. These drugs, also referred to as hallucinogens, may induce a heightened state of consciousness. They may also interfere with many cognitive processes. Commonly abused psychedelics include LSD, DMT, psilocybin, MDMA and mescaline.
These drugs mostly act on serotonin receptors in the brain. They can usually be separated into three distinct categories. They include:
- Dissociatives. These drugs cause a sense of derealization and depersonalization. Those who use these drugs tend to feel disconnected with the world, their surroundings and even their bodies.
- Empathogens. These drugs stimulate serotonin release. This causes the user to feel intense love and an increased state of attentiveness and awareness. These drugs can also cause audio and visual stimulation.
- Serotonergic drugs. These are your typical psychedelic drugs. They can cause drastic changes in sensory perception.
All three distinct categories act mostly on the serotonergic pathway in the brain. They may also stimulate other neurobiological pathways.
“17% of Americans between the ages of 21 and 64 abuse some sort of psychedelic drug.”
Most psychedelics are illegal and are not currently used for any FDA-approved medical purposes. With that said, many studies support findings that claim that psychedelic drugs are physiologically safe and usage of these drugs will not lead to chemical or physical dependence.
The Link Between Psychedelics and Mental Illnesses
If psychedelics can lead to a different state of mind, many people are concerned that it can cause mental illnesses. After all, it seems reasonable to think that a drug that can interfere with cognitive processes may cause users to experience anxiety, depression or a constantly altered state of mind.
The findings surrounding the link between psychedelics and mental illnesses are quite surprising. It’s not what most people would expect.
Many studies found that there was no significant link between lifetime use of psychedelics and an increased rate of any type of mental health outcomes. Those who used psychedelics were not more likely to develop a mental health disorder. In fact, the opposite appeared to be true. The use of psychedelics may actually lower the rate of mental health problems. They can reduce the severity of the symptoms of many mental issues.
But, What About the Link Between Psychedelics and Pre-Existing Mental Illnesses?
There are so many urban myths out there. Many of them claim that psychedelic use can lead to the development of mental health disorders. Studies have shown while that’s not really the case, those who have a pre-existing mental illness may be more predisposed to developing a hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD).
Whether this should count as psychedelics causing a mental issue is still being debated. Many researchers would argue that those with HPPD have a pre-existing condition.
This disorder is characterized as continual sensory stimulation. HPPD does not cause hallucinations. Instead, it causes the individual to experience sensations like blurred images, bright flashes of light and blobs of color. Most users report that these pseudo-hallucinations are easy to differentiate from reality.
In extreme cases, this disorder can lead to slight depersonalization and derealization. This disorder can then lead to chronic panic attacks and even major depression.
All in all, HPPD is not as intense as what most believe it to to be. Most people can recognize that they are hallucinating or experiencing HPPD. It’s also important to note that HPPD can occur even among those who have never used a psychedelic in their lives.
HPPD may also be referred to as a permanent trip. This drug can cause permanent damage.
Psychedelics May Actually Treat Mental Health Disorders
Furthermore, some studies show that psychedelics may actually treat mental health disorders. Those who take psychedelics may see some of their conditions and symptoms improve with time.
In fact, psychedelic drugs and magic mushrooms may even heal damaged brain cells in those who are suffering from depression. 2 or 3 psilocybin sessions, combined with other types of therapies, may be all that’s needed for these individuals to recover from depression.
Some psychologists and researchers are now fighting to get psychedelic drugs listed as an FDA-approved therapeutic treatment for certain mental health disorders. Although these drugs may seem effective, there’s still a lot of research to be done. Further research could determine the type of dosage that’s most effective in treating various mental disorders.
Don’t Attempt to Self-Medicate
Many people struggling with a mental health disorder may attempt to self-medicate with hallucinogens. This is not a good idea. Self-medication can exacerbate certain mental health conditions and cause more issues to arise. Those who use illicit drugs never know what they are getting. They don’t know whether the drugs are laced or whether they are getting a consistent dose.
Self-medication may appear to work, but it may only make the situation worse in the long run.
Seek Addiction Treatment for Abuse
Those who abuse psychedelic drugs without any supervision or prescription from a researcher should consider stopping. Psychedelic drugs can lead to HPPD, but it is unlikely to cause any mental health disorder. Some studies have claimed that hallucinogenic drugs may even treat other mental issues.
With that said, this doesn’t mean that psychedelic drugs may not impact a person’s life in a negative manner. Although psychedelic drugs are not necessarily physically addictive, it is possible for some people to develop a psychological addiction to them. These individuals may have a hard time quitting or getting off the drug.
If you or someone that you know is abusing psychedelic drugs, it may be time to get help. Amethyst Recovery can offer you the addiction treatment services that you are looking for. We can help you figure out what it is that you need and how to get overcome a psychological addiction.