What Are Psychedelics?
Psychedelics are the subclass of hallucinogenic drugs. These drugs alter the conscious perception and thinking process of an individual in a way different from other drugs.
A study described psychedelics as serotonergic hallucinogens that bind with serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors, producing a certain response.(1)
Some serotonergic hallucinogens are present in nature. For example, mushrooms contain a compound known as Psilocybe and ayahuasca, a compound present in a botanical beverage.
The effect of psychedelics depends on the dosage, type, and individual. They lead to different types of hallucinations, which are as follows:
- Visual hallucination
- Blissful mood or euphoria
- Changes in cognition such as mystical experience, introspection, altered time passage, and self-consciousness
Uses of Psychedelics
Psychedelics are used for both recreational and medical uses.
Recreational Uses of Psychedelics
Along with producing visual hallucinations, euphoria, and mystical experience, psychedelics are used for recreational purposes.(2)
People misuse it in the hope of:
- Detaching from the reality
- Coping with stress
- Entering a spirit world
Medical Use of Psychedelics
Research shows the use of psychedelics in mental and substance use disorders. Its medical uses are as follows:
Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Research done in 2016, investigated people with depression, who were resistant to treatment. It was observed that post 2 doses of 10mg and then 25 mg drugs (psilocybin), the symptoms diminished. This improvement was significant for 3 months.(3)
A clinical trial in 2016 explored the effects of psilocybin on depression and anxiety in 51 people with cancer. It was observed that psilocybin produced long-lasting relief from depression and anxiety, which thereby improved the quality of life.(4)
A 2014 study looked at the use of LSD in people with anxiety and life-threatening conditions. It was observed that moderate doses of LSD reduced anxiety and the effect lasted for around 12 months.(5)
Helps with Abstaining from Smoking and Alcohol
The research found that psilocybin helped people in quitting smoking and data analysis showed its long-term promising effects on smoking abstinence.(6)
A 2015 clinical trial was done to evaluate the value of psilocybin in 10 participants with alcohol dependence. The drug was found to reduce craving and increased abstinence.(7)
Are Psychedelics Addictive?
Psychedelics are not addictive. They can cause tolerance, which means a person may gradually need a higher dose to experience the same effect. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse increasing the dosage of these drugs can be extremely dangerous.(8)
Research reported psychedelics do not lead to dependence or addiction.(9)
Side Effects of Psychedelics
Short-term use of psychedelics includes nausea, increased heart rate changes in sense of time, and heightened feelings and sensory experiences such as brighter colors. Long-term use of psychedelics can cause paranoia, mood changes, disorganized thinking, and visual disturbances.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder is another long-term effect of psychedelics, which involves flashbacks of prior drug experiences that can lead to significant distress or impairment.(10) These flashbacks may occur within a few days or may take more than a year after using the drug.
People with a history of substance use disorder should not use psychedelics as repeated drug usage can make changes in the brain and this can make self-control more challenging. If tolerance develops there can be a risk of a drug overdose that can potentially lead to death. These drugs can actually be very dangerous if taken without proper medical advice.
Any psychedelic can lead to euphoria and a feeling of detachment and is often used recreationally to reduce feelings of stress. It is medically used in the preliminary stages and is said to reduce depression and anxiety. It can also be helpful for a person to reduce smoking and alcohol addiction. It really has a lot of potentials but needs more studies to prove it. There are a lot of risks and dangers associated and that increases with the use of higher doses.