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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is the future

Psychedelics have long been used around the world for various religious and medical reasons or just by people trying to have fun. However, psychedelics have been shown to help in a therapeutic setting as well. 

Psychedelicassisted therapy is a type of psychiatric process where, under supervision of professionals, the participant ingests a psychedelic substance as part of a psychotherapeutic process.

In the Western world, psychedelics being used for medical purposes is relatively new. In the early 1950s psychedelics became popular with psychologists and psychiatrists in research and practice. Thousands of patients are estimated to have been treated with ‘psychedelic psychotherapy’ over the 15-year period where such treatment was more commonly used.

However, in the mid-20th century, substances were banned and stigmatized worldwide, leaving anyone who used them to be viewed as a criminal deserving of jail time.

In the United States, psychedelics being used in research were cracked down on by the mid-1960s when they were arguably at their peak of popularity in the public stratosphere. Unsurprisingly, Nixon’s “War on Drugs” was the final straw for psychedelic research in medicine at the time. Signing into law the Controlled Substances Act, Nixon prohibited many psychedelics in the United States, making it a crime to be in possession of them.

An international ban on psychedelics was started by the United Nations’ Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971.

Despite that, there has been a recent resurgence in clinical usage of psychedelics in successfully treating a range of mental illnesses such as PTSD, eating disorders, depression and even addiction. For the first time since the 50s and early 60s, psychedelics are becoming increasingly popular and possible areas of study in a therapeutic setting. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is a promising and beneficial approach for mental health treatment. 

Several studies have shown the benefits of psychedelics in a supervised, controlled, medical context for an array of different mental health issues. A Johns Hopkins Medicine study has shown that using the psychedelic psilocybin, derived from mushrooms, can relieve major depression when used hand in hand with supportive psychotherapy where trained professionals are present for the experience and guide the patient throughout the process. The effect was said to be about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants.

The therapeutic use of psychedelics has also been shown to have benefits in treating PTSD. In an 18-weeklong trial by the University of California San Francisco of the results of MDMA paired with therapy in treating PTSD, it was found that those suffering with PTSD were about twice as likely to recover from their trauma as those who took a placebo. By the end of the trial, 71.2% of the people in the MDMA-assisted therapy group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD such as recurrent distressing memories, dreams and flashbacks. It cannot be understated the way that the use of psychedelics paired with therapy changed and likely saved many of these people’s lives. 

While these drugs have great results in controlled, clinical contexts, they can still be dangerous when used outside of this context. Psychedelics are no joke and when not used in a safe and supportive setting can and likely will do more harm than good. Outside of a medical setting psychedelic use can be very harmful to the user. Given that they tend to intensify emotional experiences, taking psychedelics without medical professionals or in a less-than-ideal setting can lead to a challenging experience characterized by fear, anxiety, dysphoria and paranoia.

For psychedelics to be conducive to the healing process, they must be used under proper medical supervision with controlled dosages and informed consent in order to ensure safe treatment. 

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is revolutionary when it comes to helping people deal with and overcome their mental health issues. People’s lives can be categorically improved and saved with the use of psychedelics in a clinical setting. It’s imperative that further research is allowed to continue and not be halted because of undue stigma. The integration of psychedelic-assisted therapy into mainstream mental health care will help an unimaginable amount of people. 

This column was written by Kirsten Lyons. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kirsten Lyons, Assistant Opinions Editor
Kirsten Lyons is a sophomore from St. Paul, Minnesota studying journalism and peace studies and is the Assistant Opinions Editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire she enjoys knitting, reading and trying out new recipes. She is excited to grow as a journalist at the Wire and help others do the same.

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