More people are using psychedelics to treat their own mental health, study says

Gustaf Kilander
·2-min read
This photo shows LSD blotter tabs on top of a US quarter coin on April 12, 2017, in Washington, DC.   (AFP via Getty Images)
This photo shows LSD blotter tabs on top of a US quarter coin on April 12, 2017, in Washington, DC. (AFP via Getty Images)

More people are using psychedelics to treat their mental health, according to the 2020 Global Drug Survey, which asked 110,000 people about their drug use. Some 6,500 people, almost six per cent, said they used recreational drugs to deal with mental health issues.

Thousands of people are now using drugs like LSD, MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine to deal with emotional issues and other mental health problems.

The report includes examples like individuals using very small doses of LSD or magic mushrooms on their own, or instances where psychedelics were used but under the watchful eye of another person yet still in a way that remained unregulated, Vice reported.

Supervisors were most often friends or partners of the person using a drug, but other settings included were psychedelic retreats or “traditional healing groups”.

Of those who reported having used psychedelics as a method to treat mental health issues, 72 per cent were men, 25 per cent were women, and two per cent said they were non-binary.

With pent up demand across the world for these kinds of drugs, it “may end up being filled outside of the medical setting," Dr Monica Barratt at RMIT University in Australia told Vice.

Read more: Psychedelic drugs could help treat the mental health epidemic we’ll face after coronavirus

The use of these substances was most often a result of anxiety, depression or relationship issues, but PTSD, substance use and bereavement were other problems mentioned.

The authors of the report write that people are turning to these drugs to "treat the most common mental health problems that people currently seek help for from traditional medical services".

They added: “The findings suggest there are many people with common preexisting conditions for whom existing treatment modalities are either insufficient or unattractive to engage with."

Survey responders reported using LSD to improve wellbeing with 52 per cent of those taking the survey giving it as their top reason. After that followed having to deal with a specific worry or concern.

Enhancing wellbeing was also the top reason for those using magic mushrooms; behind that was dealing with worries and getting a break from a psychiatric condition.

Four per cent of those who said they used psychedelics as a self-treatment method also said they had visited the emergency room.

The authors of the report wrote: “The longer the delay in rolling out these treatments through clinical services the greater the risk that vulnerable people will be tempted to access these drugs in situations that carry potential greater risk of harm."

They added: "Positive outcomes and healing can only occur with the holistic preparation and integration of psychedelic experiences in a supportive environment with access to additional resources if needed.”

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