Psychedelic drug use linked to lower suicide risk, finds study

The study is the latest to suggest a link between the use of mind-altering substances and mental health 

Psychaedelic drugs have been linked to a lower risk of suicide in marginalised people in a new study.

The research presented at the Psychaedelic Science conference in the US is the latest to attempt to uncover whether psychedelic substances can be used to treat mental illness.

To investigate whether psychedelic drugs can reduce suicides, a Canadian researcher analysed data from a four-year-long study of 800 women sex workers in Vancouver. As part of the study, the women filled out a questionnaire which covered topics including whether the women had used drugs, and if they had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past six months, Tonic reported.

The researcher, Elena Argento of the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDs, found that women who had used psychedelic drugs at some point in the lives were 60 per cent less likely to have experienced suicidal thoughts than those who hadn't. On the contrary, women who had taken crystal meth and or had experienced abuse during childhood were more prone to suicidal thoughts.

While Argento’s research is observational, and therefore did not involve controls as would be expected in lab study, it bolsters what is widely regarded as the psychedelic renaissance. Illegal drugs with psychoactive effects such as LSD, MDMA and psilocybin - or magic - mushrooms, are analysed for their apparent psychological benefits in controlled environments by medical professionals. If used wrongly, illegal psychoactive substances can cause psychological problems, including recurring flashbacks of unpleasant trips.

Last year, a study published by John Hopkins University and NYU on psilocybin showed that the substance can reduce depression in cancer patients. A separate study by researchers at the Beckley Foundation psychaedlic drug think-tank and Imperial College London Research Programme found that psilocybin could help people with treatment-resistant depression.

2016 also saw the publication of the first brain-imaging study into the effects of LSD by the Beckley Foundation, showing that the part of the brain which correlates with the “ego” is diminished under the drug while communication between other networks are expanded. Understanding how blood supply and neuronal activity are affected by LSD could help unlock the drug as a powerful treatment for tackle depression, anxiety, addiction, and OCD.

Speaking to The Independent recently, Amanda Feilding, the Executive Director of the Beckley Foundation, said that “psychedelics seem unique in their ability to produce enduring results after just one or two treatments.”

“We have also reached a tipping point as to how psychedelics are reported in the media. The stigma surrounding the subject is falling away, and a serious conversation about psychedelics is no longer completely taboo. The future is bright, if only we allow it to happen.”​

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