A new reseach paper, published on 19th August, compared 21,967 users of "psychedlic drugs" with a representative sample of the population (130,152 total) to determine the effects of LSD, psilocybin and peyote on mental health.
Have a guess at what they found...
“There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.”
Oh my! Not only did they not find any negative links between use of these hallucinogens, but they found out they might be good for you after all!
Here's a few interesting quotes from the authors of the study, Krebs & Johansen:
“Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society, [...] Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare.”
“Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population, [...] Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems.”
“Recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics, [...] many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”
“Other studies have found no evidence of health or social problems among people who had used psychedelics hundreds of times in legally-protected religious ceremonies”
Sure, there's no guarantee that psychedelic drugs are going to help you out mentally, and they definitely not a cure for a pre-existing condition, but on the whole, psychonauts seems to be doing pretty well!
It's also interesting to speculate about other drugs this may apply to. The common ground between all of the drugs looked at is that their main activity is at the brains 5-HT2A receptors along with many other drugs such as the DMT in Ayahuasca or mescaline found in Peruvian Torch cactus. I don't think it's too big a leap to assume those compounds could be beneficial too. These findings may be applicable to hallucinogens that act on the brain in another way, such as Salvia divinorum - it could be the hallucination itself that brings benefits, as alluded to in the quotes above, but that kind of speculation is perhaps one step too far.
You can read the full paper online here.