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Scientific research on psychedelics: What's going on in 2021?
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In this blog item A new era: groundbreaking research into psychedelic therapeutic valuesThe spiritual value of psilocybinWhat's going on in psychedelic research in 2021?Psilocybin relieves symptoms of major depressionSSRI antidepressant comparison with psilocybinPsychedelics as an aid to addictionMaybe you are an addict yourself and want to stop? 
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Scientific research on psychedelics: What's going on in 2021?

Even your grandmother has most likely heard something about research on psychedelics, a subject that is gaining popularity. Scientific research into substances such as psilocybin, mescaline, LSD and DMT has been stagnant for years. Recently, all kinds of things have changed at a rapid pace with regard to the use and research of these substances. The mainstream is starting to adjust its opinion from "illegal, dangerous drug", to "substance with significant therapeutic value". 

A new era: groundbreaking research into psychedelic therapeutic values

At John Hopkins University, research into the therapeutic value of psychedelics is back in full swing. It was here that the first renewed scientific trials were approved by the U.S. government, in the year 2000. 

The university, located in Baltimore, United States, is known for its Center For Psychedelic & Consciousness Research. From here, promising results are uncovered. As the research center puts it, scientists are entering a new era of groundbreaking research on these substances. This research had already started in the 1950s and 1960s, but came to an abrupt end in the 1970s. From then on scientific research on these substances was prohibited for several decades. Psychedelics were put in a bad light by hyped up stories in the media and propaganda. Because of this, all valuable research and therapy sessions that were going on at that time were quickly terminated.

The spiritual value of psilocybin

In 2006, research was published entitled: "Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance".
 


This study used healthy subjects who had never experienced psychedelics before. They were selected for regular participation in religious or spiritual activities. 

The small-scale study showed that a high dose of psilocybin could induce a significant mystical experience in the participants. The experience, two months later, was described by most as "being very important in their personal lives and of great spiritual significance.” Participants also reported lasting positive changes in their thinking and behavior, which were also shared by people in their immediate environment, such as family members. 

Read the full report here

What's going on in psychedelic research in 2021?

In the meantime, 15 years have passed and a lot has happened following this publication. 

More research is exposing certain pain points that scientists generally face. One example is discovering the optimal active dose and the factors involved. 

This study, published in February 2020, examined the difference between giving a fixed determined dose of psilocybin, versus dosing adjusted for the user's weight. The latter way of dosing is done in most trials and is obviously more cumbersome, than if a 'fixed dose' would be given. The preliminary results show that a fixed dose of psilocybin has more advantages than the standard method of adjusting the dose according to the weight of the user. According to the results, body weight does not play a significant role in the intensity of the experience. Someone weighing 113 kg can have a strong psychedelic experience with the same dose of psilocybin, as much as someone weighing 49 kg. 

Psilocybin relieves symptoms of major depression

One of the interesting possibilities of, for example, psilocybin, the substance found in Magic Mushrooms and Magic Truffles, is relieving symptoms of major depression.
 


Recent psilocybin research, done under the direction of British scientist Robin Carhart-Harris, shows that our view of depression and its treatment needs to be reshaped. Psilocybin shows where current psychiatry fails in treating things like major depression.

We are living in the 21st century and mental disorders are the number one cause of disability. It is estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide suffer from it. Depression forms the biggest challenge: some 250 million people worldwide are affected and large amounts of antidepressants are prescribed every year and continue to rise. Yet the effectiveness of these classic antidepressants, such as Prozac, appears to be particularly disappointing. It is assumed that reasons for this are that science still does not understand well enough how exactly depression works and therefore what is necessary and effective to treat this condition, if you will. 

Classical drugs for treating depression such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work in a certain way increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. The pharmaceutical industry has completely run afoul of this claim, making billions from this type of medication when there may be other, better working methods. Recent studies show that these medications work only slightly better than a placebo and that about 50 to 60% have some noticeable effect. The side effects of these drugs, including feeling dull, decreased motivation, and complications when a user stops taking them, contribute to their cumbersome effect. 

SSRI antidepressant comparison with psilocybin

The study, which lasted six weeks, compared the efficacy of a common antidepressant (SSRI) with alternative therapy consisting of two sessions of psilocybin. There were 59 participants in this study, all with major depression. 

The group was divided between participants who were treated with the traditional antidepressant for six weeks and those who received psilocybin therapy twice. 

At the end of the study, 33% of the group with the usual antidepressant was found to respond to the drug. 

Those who received psilocybin had a faster effect, and saw their depressive symptoms diminish after just one day. By the end of the study, 70% of the psilocybin group had an effect from the substance. 

The results were even much better than expected. On various points, from scores on anxiety, functioning socially and within the work situation as well as suicidal thoughts, there was a clear improvement. The participants were also better able to experience pleasure and to allow certain emotions. 

Both groups experienced certain side effects, but the group with the SRRI antidepressant suffered from more severe negative effects such as dry mouth, feeling dull and reduced sexual functioning. The group receiving psilocybin mainly experienced mild to moderate headaches the day after dosing. In the future, another follow-up will take place, six months after the study. Here it will become clear if the assumption that the psilocybin group experiences a longer lasting positive effect than the SSRI group, is correct. 

Psychedelics as an aid to addiction

Most of us are prone to addictions. Just take a look at your history, at where you come from. Chances are you've encountered alcohol addiction or tobacco addiction in your family, for example. 

There are also other types of addictions, for example gambling or gaming. Furthermore, you may also be addicted in some way to destructive thought patterns and actions. You could say that an eating disorder is also a form of addiction. Addiction to not eating, for example. Or being addicted to eating way too much. 

Either way, when you become dependent on something and it gains more and more power over you so you can no longer live your life, it is time to intervene. There are different ways in which you can be helped and for everyone this is a process that happens by trial and error. 

Maybe you are an addict yourself and want to stop? 

Personally, I got rid of my smoking addiction with the help of psychedelics. From my own experience I can say that Magic Mushrooms have enormous healing properties and have helped me to let go of destructive behavior. Humans have known about this for centuries, but in recent years scientific research ensures that this power can actually be proven clinically.

Of course they remain tools, aids and it is not a magic pill that will solve all your problems. I am aware that breaking an addiction goes hand in hand with all kinds of life lessons and resources.

As Robin Carhart-Harris puts it, "psilocybin research is making it clear that we need to shift our focus within mental health from medication to a broader view of the treatment and cause of depression, for example. Psychedelics can treat mental illness by activating and stimulating certain areas of our brain that relate to deep psychological change. When this is combined with a nurturing environment that encourages positive change, certain ingrained mental patterns and behaviors can be broken."


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