LSD On Way To Legality?

Mushroom in the forest that contains psilocybin

Focus on Psilocybin, MDMA, Ketamine

LSD, that colorful, controversial, notorious drug of the 1960’s, is making news again. And this time the news is good.

 From WebMD:

“The FDA (federal Food and Drug Administration) recently designated a form of LSD as a breakthrough therapy to treat generalized anxiety disorder.”

This paves the way for LSD ultimately to be legalized for clinical use.

The action is not totally surprising to advocates who keep their finger on the pulse of advances in mental health. Stirrings predicting LSD’s rehabilitation were heard around publication time of SPARE, the autobiography of Prince Harry Windsor. In it, he described his first encounter with the drug.

Believing them to be chocolates left in a box in the refrigerator by a thoughtful hostess, he took a few. When he discovered the truth, he described the trip as scarey. At the time, he was suffering from the angst brought on by the sudden death of his beloved mother, Princess Diana.

Recent studies have shown LSD‘s benefits for people with high anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these were wreaking havoc on the young royal.

After marrying the actress Meghan Markle, Harry feared that she and their children would be subject to the same dangers as his Mum, especially from the paparazzi. Eventually, he felt compelled to step away from his royal life.

More From WebMD:

“LSD is still illegal, but recent studies show that this powerful compound is not unusually dangerous if taken under controlled circumstances and that it has the potential to help some people with serious mental conditions.”

Early Believers

Historically speaking, many people did not wait for governmental approval givers to dot all their i’s and cross all their t’s. They experimented with LSD, and their reasons were as varied as their talents–medical, recreational, curiosity, or belief they might reach otherwise unreachable creative highs.

Following are names on an undated list of users posted online. It was compiled by Cliff Askey, identified on Google as Clinical Team Head, University of Kent, London, England. It contains some notes by the author, which are in parentheses. (From www.quora.com)

 “Albert Hoffmann (discoverer of LSD), Cary Grant, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Beatles (not Paul), Steve Jobs (invented Apple; How was taking LSD a personality-altering experience for Steve Jobs?).

“Gerry Garcia, Bill Hicks, John Belushi, Jack Nicholson, Angelina Jolie, Matt Groening, Francis Crick (discovered DNA), Timothy Leary.

“Aldous Huxley, Anais Nin, Ken Kesey, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, William Burroughs, Eminem, Peter Fonda, Bill Gates, Marcia Moore, John Cunningham Lilly, Allen Watts, and many more: artists, musicians, thinkers, inventors and creators.”

Tragedy Strikes

Popular as some of those adventurers were, public opinion turned on LSD when tragedy struck. Timothy Leary, mentioned above and a professor at Harvard, began to preach the drug’s benefits to his students. Leary was fired. Word leaked out about bad trips, flashbacks, psychotic episodes, and suicides by young people dropping acid.

Psilocybin, MDMA, Ketamine

Today, major work is being carried on with two psychedelic breakthrough therapies. They are psilocybin, found in certain mushrooms and discovered to be useful in treating alcoholism, and MDMA, better known as the club drug ecstasy.

Bearing street names like “Special K” and “kitkat,” ketamine is the third drug receiving special attention. It is an anesthetic traditionally used on animals by medical practitioners and veterinarians. But now it has been found useful to humans too, for management of depression and pain.

According to the website ADF/Alcohol and Drug Foundation, ketamine “is a dissociative drug, which means it causes people to feel separated or detached from their body or physical environment. Dissociatives are similar to psychedelics; they can cause hallucinations and other changes in thoughts, emotions and consciousness.

“When it’s sold illegally, ketamine usually comes as a white or off-white powder. It can also be made into pills, or dissolved in a liquid.”

Sometimes smoked with tobacco or marijuana, it also can be swallowed, snorted or injected. Effects can last for an hour. After initial use, bodily coordination or senses may be affected for 24 hours.

Currently, unregulated clinics are offering trials of psychedelics or a form of ketamine.

Funding

Mental health specialists are hoping that despite LSD’s former spotty reputation, more of the powers that be will become impressed with the strides now being made through research. Hopefully, this will lead to more grants being approved by sources such as the National Institute of Health.

Research Ongoing

Meanwhile, Compass Pathways, the firm studying psilocybin for depression, has two Phase III trials going. The results from one of them are expected this summer.

Collin Reiff, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, welcomed the FDA’s breakthrough designations. Then he commented on projects in the realm of mental health.“The challenge isn’t necessarily in the research,” he said. “The challenge is that, if the results continue to be positive, how do you make these compounds available in a safe manner on a wide scale? How do you ensure that providers are well trained, that there’s equitable access to care? Are insurers going to reimburse this? There are a lot of things to figure out.

Testing

Tidbits of the testing component in LSD research are available on line. Some follow:

Earlier, post-trip sessions were held in which the patient and the therapist discussed what the person had learned about himself or herself from the experience.

Patients in the trial received education before their treatment. When they took the LSD, a pair of non-therapist monitors were in the room with them to provide support and assistance if they had difficulties during their trip. Dr. Daniel Karlin, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer of MindMed said, “Afterward, the patients came back to the clinical site for assessments, and as a component of that process, they were able to ask questions about their session.”

Dr. Karlin said that the Phase III trial is similarly designed, and he stressed that the drug company wants to find out whether therapists are really needed to get significant benefits. If LSD is approved by the FDA for general anxiety disorder, he said, MindMed, the New York-based drug company, intends to make the drug available to both psychotherapists and non-therapists.

Inner Geography

In the clinics where these experiments are conducted, patients normally lie down on a couch, and they may wear dark eye shades and listen to carefully programmed music on headphones. The idea is to let them focus on exploring their inner geography rather than having to deal with the external environment, which can seem frightening or bizarre.

“‘Mostly what people describe doing in these sessions is a self-exploration process, and they look at their relationship to their anxiety.”’

Dr. Karlin stated, “…the point of being in a comfortable place is not to have anything that distracts from that internal process. We want people to know that they’re safe because LSD can be unnerving and confusing, and we want to have trained monitors there.’”

Dr. Karlin added that he isn’t worried about the potential for abuse, partly because the kind of people who seek help with their anxiety and depression are not those who would seek illegal ‘street’ drugs. Moreover, he noted, people cannot become addicted to LSD.

Dr. Reiff views LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA as new tools for psychiatrists and psychotherapists.

Hope, Caution

In his statement, Dr. Reiff succinctly summed up the challenges and hopes of both laymen and professionals:

We will want to make sure that practitioners are well trained, so there are no adverse outcomes. And we want to make sure that we don‘t get this wrong. We got it wrong in the 1960s. The drugs hit mainstream well before they hit clinics. All it takes is some bad headlines, and that will crush the whole thing. So let’s take it slowly in little steps.

Finding a Treatment That Works for You

At The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, we’re committed to providing top-quality care for various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD. Located in Tamarac, Broward County, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, our center does not offer treatment using psychedelics, but does offer a welcoming and supportive environment for all who seek help. Our team of professionals is dedicated to creating personalized treatment plans to meet each individual’s unique needs.

We accept several insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, NYSHIP, United Healthcare, and more to make our services accessible to many. For those without insurance, we offer private pay options so you can still get the care you need. Whether you’re considering therapy, intensive outpatient treatment programs, detox, residential treatment, or various rehab options, we’re here to help you understand the costs and find the best solution for your situation. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you on your path to better mental health.

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