Just a Trip

Using psychedelic drugs does not increase one’s risk of developing mental health problems, researchers show.

By Tracy Vence | August 19, 2013

FLICKR, ZAPDELIGHTSeveral associative studies have drawn vastly different conclusions about the connections between psychedelic drugs and mental health. Today (August 19) the field gets even hazier, as researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) suggest that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), “magic” mushrooms, and peyote do not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems—and report that psychedelic drug use was actually linked to fewer such issues, according to their recent investigation.

In a study appearing in PLOS ONE, the Norwegian team analyzed health data on more than 130,000 people chosen at random from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2001–2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of which 22,000 said they had used psychedelics at least once. The researchers found no links between the self-reported use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems, including general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.

“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, or peyote, or past-year use of LSD, was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” NTNU psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen said in a statement.

In fact, Johansen and his coauthor found that lifetime use of psilocybin—the psychedelic compound in “magic” mushrooms—or mescaline—the psychedelic agent in peyote—and past-year use of LSD were instead associated with reduced rates of serious psychological distress. They also found that lifetime use of LSD was associated with reduced rates of outpatient mental health treatment and fewer prescriptions for psychiatric drugs.

Still, the study leaves unanswered questions, and the researchers caution that psychedelic drugs were tied to fewer mental health problems does not mean they are necessarily beneficial to health. “We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Overall, though, the researchers note that their study helps to refute previous speculations that psychedelic drugs lead to an increase in mental health problems. In a statement, study coauthor Teri Krebs pointed out that during “the past 50 years, tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems.”

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Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 36

August 20, 2013

As someone who has spent time collecting adverse psychedelic events, they definitely occur. Of the three drugs mentioned, psilocybin has the best safety profile, mescaline a close second, and LSD last. None create major problems in most people. However, each has a different receptorome profile.

LSD has been associated with intensification of psychopathy and psychosis. (Charles Manson, Baader-Meinhof Gang, and Barker's prison study.) People can also get imprinted with bizarre ideas that they cannot shake - ever - regardless of evidence - while taking a psychedelic. 

See Elliot Barker's work with psychopaths and follow-on studies. I know he still believes in his approach, but the data says otherwise. 

Psychedelics are both antidepressants and promote anxiety. For those susceptible, anxiety can be severe. I know of one case of a woman who used one not listed here daily for a year and to this day she cannot function without medication. Some people develop significant distortions of perception that are quite persistent. Talk to Rick Doblin (founder of MAPS) about that.

Just a couple of weeks ago I met a man who would self-describe as extraordinarily healthy and well adjusted who is a fairly regular psychedelics user. He does yoga all the time, feels good about his life. But he lives in his van and after about half an hour confided in me that bald and fat people follow him because they are jealous of his health. He told me 10 people in the cafe were part of the group that texts his location so they can harass him. This man is functional in society, but quite paranoid, and very delusional. (He had other obvious delusions as well.) 

Similarly, I would hope that the authors of this study would familiarize themselves with the old literature that did personality profile assessments before and after psychedelic use. That material shows that while self-perception was that they had changed greatly, usually for the better, objective assessment showed no change in any scales except self-perception and openness to novelty. 

In other words, the self-reports of users are not valid. Such reports must be validated and compared using objective criteria or they are nearly meaningless. 

Avatar of: PastToTheFuture


Posts: 112

August 20, 2013

"Psychedelics are high octane fuel, unfortunately most people have low octane minds"... Whatzisname...

Psychedelics are stimulents so while they enhance many things, your strongest feelings including fear and insecurity will be amplified as well. A sane person can deal with it, particularly if forewarned.

Another issue is that when that stimulated, a person cannot lie to themselves. If they are used to that or are heavily invested in their lies, they may end up uncomfortable.

The thing is though that Psychedelics can produce a stronger experience than most of normal reality. As such, I have wondered about recommending them to people, but with the legal environment I generally do not, but that is not to say that I do not think they would enrich many people's lives. Sort of a Maslow thing... they are likely to assist in Self Actualization if a person is already on that path.


Avatar of: Kathy Barker

Kathy Barker

Posts: 44

August 22, 2013

Interesting and important study and good reporting that is provocative but not overstated.

There is enormous potential (and actual) benefit to psychodelic use, but the power of the drugs and the fear that was marketed have kept these tools from people for too many decades. 

Avatar of: Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy Stardust

Posts: 1

August 1, 2015

Please read my review and visit my profile about an Acid trip I had at a "respectable" community mental health center in Penndel PA. On Google and Yelp. Search Penndel Mental health, Penndel PA 

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