Mental Health Issues That Don’t Mix Well With Psychedelics

Mental Health Issues That Don’t Mix Well With Psychedelics

Mental health issues are more and more common these days, especially in the age of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, researchers and psychotherapists have long studied how alternative psychedelic drugs can potentially help with things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. It’s only natural to question whether or not there are some conditions that don’t mix well with these healing methods. Let’s find out.

Psychedelics are classified as hallucinogens, and, therefore, are a subject of legal disputes that are preventing future studies. Since the greatest problem is not knowing for sure how they’ll affect someone who’s dealing with serious mental health conditions, it’s hard to make a case for testing it on human subjects.

Existing studies mostly target depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction, and have shown promising results in all areas. This has led to the approval of multiple Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials, as well as legalization of the first psychedelics drugs-assisted treatment in the U.S.

Since even these studies and trials have been scarce, it’s hard to find a lot of information on other mental health issues, and whether or not any studies have been conducted or at least considered. Here are a few we know of.

Psychedelics and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is, as we know, an incredibly serious mental health condition. It affects a person’s thinking, mood, and social functioning, and usually leads to an episode of psychosis. These changes in behavior can be gradual or abrupt and its symptoms generally fall under psychotic (hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders), negative (loss of motivation, willpower, reduced speech and emotional expression), and cognitive (problems in attention, concentration, and memory).

Symptoms can exacerbate, turn into something more persistent than episodic, and become disabling when left untreated. This makes it hard to function in everyday life. Schizophrenia is most prominent in the late-teen years to the early-thirties, and often emerges earlier in the male population.

Research

When it comes to psychedelic therapy, there have been several promising studies. That’s because hallucinogenic drugs have high affinity for serotonin 5-HT2A receptors, which is also the target of psychedelics.

Unfortunately, the number of studies is still extremely low, and the connection between the two is still difficult to fully understand. Therefore, the current mental health space needs more research to prove that treating depression and anxiety is a responsive strategy when managing symptoms of schizophrenia.

Psychedelics and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is another one of the more serious mental issues. By definition, it involves extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and behavior. This results in manic episodes (a euphoric high), before crashing down into a depressive episode.

It exists in three most common types:

  • Bipolar I Disorder. The most severe, with manic episodes lasting up to a week, and depressive up to two weeks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder. Milder than the first category, and lasting for only a few days.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder. Mood shifts in this category aren’t as extreme as those with bipolar disorders. People with cyclothymic disorder often function in daily life, though it can be difficult.

Research

With its deep connection to depression and anxiety, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there’s a genuine interest in whether or not psychedelic-assisted treatment could help. The world’s first clinical trial relating psilocybin to Bipolar II disorder is commencing in 2021. It is under the guidance of researchers from the University of California in San Francisco and CREST.BD.

Scientists have shown interest in other studies using psychedelics for depression. However, more research is necessary to compare how psilocybin therapy benefits those with bipolar disorder.

Still, the biggest problem of psychedelics for bipolar disorder is the concern of “high” energy activity. This occurs when hallucinogens in the system, potentially, trigger mania or mood episodes. So, until further research comes with some definite conclusions, it’s hard to know whether the results will be positive or negative.

Psychedelics and ADHD

One of the more common mental health issues, ADHD (or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), is classified by an inability to pay attention in a way that can become disruptive to daily life. However, it also may include the inability to control impulsive behaviors, or unusually high levels of activity. It is most prominent during childhood, and often lasts into adulthood.

With the help of behavior therapy and medication, ADHD can be kept under control. However, the use of psychedelic intervention could potentially change these current treatment methods.

Research

A company called MindMed is exploring the impact of LSD and MDMA on ADHD, with Phase 1 trials beginning soon. The reason for combining the two instead of trying each one for themselves comes after thorough research into how one’s negative effects can counteract the other, especially as LSD’s stimulatory impact can potentially exacerbate the hyperactivity in ADHD.

Once again, we’re in a situation where we don’t know much due to lack of research and current findings. Hopefully, studies will yield results to further trigger exploration into the effectiveness of psychedelics for ADHD.

Mental Health Issues & Risks With Psychedelics

Mental health issues comprise a large group of different illnesses that oftentimes have similar symptoms. However, treatment varies in each. It’s why thorough psychedelic studies and trials need to continue, so researchers can identify what is and isn’t working. Unfortunately, due to current lack of funding, it’s hard to work on simultaneous studies — even with some known side effects of psychedelics.

Therefore, currently, no one knows for sure which mental health issues don’t mix well with certain psychedelics. With more research, that will change. So, hopefully, the next decade will show the true promise of the future of psychedelics against common mental health issues. This will further highlight ways that these alternative drugs can be an efficient and effective tool for millions of people.

Karla Ilicic

View all posts by Karla Ilicic

Karla is a freelance writer, yoga teacher and nutritionist who's been writing about nutrition, fitness, yoga, mindfulness, and overall health and wellness topics for over seven years. She's written for numerous publications such as Healthline, Livesavvy, Psychology.com, Well + Good, and many others, sharing her love of storytelling and educating. She loves talking about superfoods and another amazing plant powers that people can benefit from if they learn how to use it properly. Her passion lies in helping others not only eat healthier meals but implement good eating habits, find a great relationship with food & achieve a balanced lifestyle. She believes that the only diet and lifestyle that's worth creating is the one you can stick to, so she aims to find what that means for each and every individual. Teaching WHY we eat, and not only WHAT we eat, is the premise of her approach.

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