The University of Alabama have discovered that participants who took magic mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD had significantly reduced suicidal thoughts suicide attempts and psychological distress in the long term.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Pharmacology, analyzed data from an annual survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that measures substance abuse in relation to mental illness. The data were compiled between 2008 and 2012, and drew from the experiences of 190,000 adults. Participants took the survey online, answering pre-recorded questions about their individual use of classic psychedelics.
Of those surveyed, 13.6%, or about 27,235 people, reported having used classic psychedelics. The results showed that those who had taken these substances were 19% less likely to have psychological distress in the past month, and their reports of suicidal thoughts in the past year were 14% lower than those who didn’t use the drugs. What’s more, that same group reported 36% fewer suicide attempts in the past year.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 30,000 people in the U.S. die from suicide each year, and worldwide that number is 1 million. While treatment for mental health disorders has improved markedly in the past century, the suicide rate remains stagnant.
Only two studies to date, this one included, specifically address the relationship between mental illness and psychedelics. In 2011, individuals with advanced-stage cancer were given single doses of psilocybin and were found to have reduced long-term incidences of depression and anxiety.
Culturally, psychedelics bear quite a bit of baggage: Timothy Leary’s call to “turn on, tune in and drop out” became a countercultural slogan in the 1960s, and proved damaging to potential research on utilizing the drug to improve mental health for more than three decades. Perhaps this study will be a turning point in how our culture regards psychedelics and mental health. “I know scientists are supposed to be objective and dispassionate,” Hendricks says. “But I’ve seen the data — it seems to me that psychedelics hold tremendous therapeutic potential.”
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