Psychedelic research began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but is currently used to help people get to know themselves and find their creativity. COMPASS Pathways in London is testing the effects of psilocybin on patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression
Evidence of psychedelic use comes from a cave in Spain
Psychedelic use has been documented throughout the prehistoric world. In Spain, archeologists have discovered evidence of psilocybe mushroom usage. These pictographs date back 7000 years before the present.
According to this study, the earliest known depiction of psilocybe mushrooms may be the masked “shaman” figures at Selva Pascuala, a rock shelter in eastern Spain. These figures contain large mushrooms sprouting from their bodies. It is also believed that these mushrooms were used in rituals.
This is the first rock art site in the world with clear evidence that hallucinogens were consumed. The cave wall is made of fungoid figures, and fungi in the surrounding area are thought to match the depiction.
A 1,000-year-old shaman’s pouch contains multiple psychedelics, including DMT and bufotenin. These substances likely helped the shaman to enter a trance state. It is believed that the shaman may have used a variety of psilocybin-containing mushrooms or perhaps the local species, Psilocybe hispanica.
The LC-MS analysis of the quids suggests that these suckable clumps were used to extract hallucinogenic alkaloids. They were probably masticated inside the cave.
In addition, there is a mural at Selva Pascuala, which features psychedelic mushrooms. These mushrooms are Psilocybe hispanica. These mushrooms are considered sacred by many indigenous cultures. These mushrooms have been used in religious rituals and folk medicine for centuries.
The research at Selva Pascuala suggests that psychoactive fungi were a post-Paleolithic ritual. It is possible that the psychedelic effects on suggestibility helped enhance hominins’ sociality and adaptability. The findings of this study have broad implications for the prehistoric use of psychedelics and the culture and politics they have affected.
Psychedelic therapy peaked in the late 1950s and early 1960s
Psychedelic therapy is the use of psychedelics in the treatment of substance use disorders. It is often counterintuitive to use psychedelics to treat addiction, but the therapeutic effect of a psychedelic experience is usually based on psychological mechanisms.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, psychiatrists and psychologists began administering LSD to patients. The initial results of these studies were promising. However, the social stigma surrounding psychedelics and the reluctance of the scientific community made it difficult to conduct profound research.
In the mid-1950s, intellectuals in Southern California redefined LSD as a mystical enlightenment drug. They began conducting clinical trials with patients suffering from neurosis. They discovered that a high dose of LSD effectively produced deep insights and a high level of well-being.
Several researchers conducted clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of LSD in treating anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses. The research found that the drug’s effects on anxiety were similar to those observed in psychotherapy sessions.
The research involving psychedelics was abruptly stopped in the 1960s due to social reasons. Some of the early researchers involved in the study were deemed a laughingstock. This made it difficult for them to find new employment.
The youth subculture of the 1960s was focused on civil rights and anti-war protest. The hippie movement was also a key contributor to the psychedelic revolution. These movements were considered threats to the American establishment.
In the 1990s, interest in psychedelic research resurged. More recent studies have reported the use of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting for a variety of diagnoses.
While the results of clinical trials for psychedelics have generally been similar, there are still open questions about the mechanisms and safety of psychedelics. More clinical trials are needed with better blinding, higher sample sizes, and more controlled conditions.
Psychedelic research catalyzes spiritual or mystical experiences and inspires creativity
Psychedelic research is a promising new biotechnology sector for the public and private sectors. It has excellent potential to enhance the body, mind, and spirit. Psychedelics can help to stimulate creativity and induce mystical experiences.
Research has shown that psilocybin and other psychedelics can facilitate mystical experiences, enhance divergent thinking, and provide greater emotional empathy. Studies have shown that psychedelics can treat depression and other mental health disorders.
However, these benefits are not without limits. Some patients have reported a decrease in connectivity in crucial brain connector hubs. Others have experienced more locally segregated activity. And still, others have rated their experience as spiritually significant.
As a result, psychedelics are experiencing a comeback in science. And despite the stigma once attached to them, they are being used as medicines and for therapeutic purposes. They are also being used in religious contexts as sacraments. These benefits are not limited to the Western world. Indigenous medicinal traditions have long used psychedelics. Several legal exemptions in the US have helped bring psychedelics back into the mainstream.
Although various imaginaries are emerging, a common research trend is the biomedicalization imaginary. This imagination tends to co-opt Indigenous knowledge systems. It is also rooted in the history of biomedicine, which has often co-opted alternative healthcare ideologies and practices. The Nixon administration deliberately crafted laws against drugs associated with perceived enemies in the US. This reframed the official narrative on psychedelics, which focused on public health risks.
The sacramental imaginary is a collective vision of psychedelics in a religious context. It is envisioned as a means to provide legal access to psychedelics. This is achieved by instituting educational programs and policy changes.
Psychedelic research trials are challenging
Psychedelic research trials are challenging because of the subjective nature of the experience. There are challenges involving blinding and masking methods. They also require the fine-grained perspective of a researcher.
The drug effects must be explained neutrally in clinical trials of psychedelic therapy. This is particularly important if the active substance is compared with a placebo. The difference between the two can be evident if the hallucinogenic effects are present.
It is critical to avoid a bias towards a positive outcome. In addition, researchers must disclose that they could not meet the post-hoc hypothesis. This is especially important if participants’ expectations are likely to have been amplified by pervasive messaging.
Researchers must also examine how their expectations at the beginning of a psychedelic session can affect their subsequent subjective experiences. It is not uncommon for participants to have expectations at the outset that predict their subjective experiences at the end of the session.
Socioeconomic, cultural, and tribal differences can influence these expectations. They may also be affected by social desirability.
Psychedelic research studies are also vulnerable to “hype” due to the positive expectations of patients and researchers. The risk is higher for high-dose trials. Those with more favorable expectations might be more prone to experiencing more profound and long-lasting effects.
Communication on treatment efficacy must be consistent across all recruitment materials, consent forms, and interactions with participants. It is also essential to explain uncertainty about treatment effectiveness.
In addition to patient-reported outcomes, other objective measures are commonly used in psychedelic trials. These can include behavioral tasks, biomarkers, and clinician-administered assessments. Some of these measures are predictive of psychedelic-induced change.
COMPASS Pathways in London is testing psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression
COMPASS Pathways, a UK-based pharmaceutical company, recently released results from a study evaluating psilocybin as a treatment for treatment-resistant depression. This type of depression is a severe mental illness that can lead to various physical and psychological health problems.
About one-third of patients with a major depressive disorder is resistant to treatment. These people are at risk of hospitalization, disability, and even suicide. This research has shown that a single dose of psilocybin can reduce the symptoms of this condition.
The study involved 233 patients with treatment-resistant depression. The participants were randomly assigned to a group that received either 25 mg, 10 mg, or 1 mg of psilocybin. They then underwent a six-hour “trip” similar to a dream. They were accompanied by therapists trained in the use of psilocybin and psychedelics.
At three weeks, 29 percent of the high-dose participants were in remission. The average score on a scale used to assess depressive symptoms decreased significantly. These findings are promising. However, the results for more extended periods are less specific.
Adverse effects included nausea, headaches, and thoughts of suicide. Seventy-five percent of the patients in the 10-mg group and 72 percent in the one-mg group experienced adverse effects.
All patients underwent counseling before and after using psilocybin. A team of therapists was trained to provide psychological support during the trip.
The trial was conducted in collaboration with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Dr. James Rucker, a consultant psychiatrist, is the trial’s lead. He is also the head of the Psychoactive Trials Group at the IoPPN.
The Phase 2 trial involved 233 patients with treatment-resistant depression. All patients underwent a MADRS (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale) assessment the day before the psilocybin-assisted therapy session. The participants have then assessed again at four, eight, and twelve weeks.