OPEN Foundation

Day: 1 September 2013

Psychedelics linked to lower mental health risks

The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

Researcher Teri Krebs and clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU), cleverly used data from a US national health survey to study the association between psychedelic drug use and mental health problems.

The researchers relied on data from the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in which participants were asked about mental health treatment and symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions over the past year. The specific symptoms examined were general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.

The study showed that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription, although the nature of these relations were not demonstrated in the Norwegians’ study.

Interestingly, the results of this study confirm the outcomes of recent clinical trials that likewise do not demonstrate lasting harmful effects from the use of psychedelics in a clinical setting. It further shows that even when used non-clinically, psychedelic substances might be able to play a role in alleviating mental health issues.

The results are published in the journal PLOS One and are freely available online.

A proposal to evaluate mechanistic efficacy of hallucinogens in addiction treatment


Current treatments for addiction are frequently ineffective. Hallucinogenic therapy has been indicated as helpful for a range of substance use disorders, yet this approach remains understudied and publicly unavailable. It is nonetheless a promising treatment, which has significant, long-term beneficial effects with single doses and a profile characterized by general safety, low toxicity, and non-addictiveness. However, pharmacological interventions, such as hallucinogens, should not be offered if the same effects (e.g. psychological insights/mystical experiences) and outcomes (e.g. decreased drug use) could be achieved absent pharmacological intervention. To date, there have been no clinical comparisons of drug-induced altered states with non-drug-induced states for addiction treatment. We propose and then outline a clinical trial to address this gap in knowledge. The proposed design would evaluate abstinence outcomes in a population of prescription opioid abusers after exposure to one of three conditions: a drug-induced altered state using psilocybin, a non-drug-induced altered state via hyperventilation (Holotropic Breathwork), and an active placebo with niacin. The outcomes of such a study would reveal important differences in therapeutic potential by discriminating hallucinogen-dependent effects from those psychological effects resulting from altered states.

Burdick, B. V., & Adinoff, B. (2013). A proposal to evaluate mechanistic efficacy of hallucinogens in addiction treatment. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 39(5), 291-297.
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21 March - Ketamine Discussion with Celia Morgan, Filip Tylš & Will Barone