According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the leading cause of disability across the globe. With the recent suicides of beloved celebs like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and depression being depicted in shows like Netflix’s wildly popular 13 Reasons Why, it’s clear that depression and suicide need our attention more than ever. There is not a single soul out there who has not had feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts, but for others it can be all-consuming and debilitating with no way out.
The usual route to battle these mental illnesses is taking umpteen different forms of prescribed meds for months or years with little to no improvement. But imagine being able to take one or two therapeutic “trips” under in the influence of psychoactive drugs and freeing yourself from anxiety, depression, or addiction. A new generation of academics believe that psychedelic therapy is the answer.
Psychedelics like MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and ketamine weren’t always outlawed. Scientific studies on these ingredients began in the 1950s for alcoholism, OCD, depression and anxiety, but they didn’t have the scientific standards we have today. With the counter-culture of the 70s and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, aboveground research came to a halt, while a number of psychiatrists continued clandestine therapy sessions and research.
In 1986 Rick Doblin founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to re-educate the public and lobby for controlled research. Its success has been a major force behind today’s “psychedelic renaissance” and has led to the FDA designating MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy” in 2017. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is now in phase 3 of clinical trials, and if approved, will be the first FDA-approved psychedelic drug since the 70s. It may be possible to obtain a prescription for psychoactive therapy to treat not just treatment-resistant depression, but a wide range of issues like OCD, eating disorders, and PTSD.
Even for those of us without diagnosable illnesses, psychedelics can help us face our emotions, aid in spiritual growth, and gain new perspective. Whatever trauma you’ve experienced in life, psychedelic therapy can bring those painful emotions to the surface and allow you to confront and process them. Some people even have “mystical” experiences. In a 2011 study at John Hopkins, people described feelings of sacredness, peace, unity, and joy. They also described a sense of transcending in space and time. They even said the experience felt like the nature of true reality. Ummm…Yes to all.
So how do you know which drug would be best for you? For newcomers, MDMA is the most gentle and can be used for confronting fears and anxieties. For depression, ketamine may be a great option and there are around 50 ketamine clinics across the U.S. As more studies are being conducted at institutions like Johns Hopkins, NYU and UCLA, we’ll begin to understand better how to treat our mental health using psychedelic drugs. One London-based company is even setting out to be the first psychedelic pharmaceutical company and developing entire treatment plans that consist of training, protocols, and the medicine itself. The future of mental health treatment is looking brighter than ever and it could be as soon as 2020.
Written By: Andrea Lee, @organicbeautylover