How psychedelics and tranquilizers could be the new therapy
The future is bright, but there is a barrier to these drugs and it is inertia (Picture: Getty Images)
Looking after our mental health is now seen as an integral part of our wellbeing. Yet depression is still the predominant mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
In fact, University College London has reported a substantial increase in people reporting generalised anxiety and depression, particularly women, and yet MHF data shows only one in eight adults receives mental health treatment whether it’s medication, psychological therapy, or both.
Both technology and the CBD revolution have helped people manage their mental health symptoms better, but what comes next?
It might sound far-fetched, but tranquilisers and psychedelics could be next in line to change the course of mental health treatments in the future.
As the benefits of functional mushrooms become more knowledgeable, research into psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is gaining traction to treat mental health conditions, alongside LSD (a synthetic chemical made from the fungus that infects rye) and dissociative anaesthetic ketamine, all with promising results.
A treatment revolution
Attitudes need to change (Picture: Getty Images)
‘Depression is the most disabling illness on the planet – more than cancer or heart failure – after all, what is a life without hope, and that is the feeling deep at the heart of every depression,’ says Dr Jonathan Iliff, a medical doctor, psychiatrist and neuroscientist based at the Maudsley, the world’s number one research institution for mental health.
Dr Iliff is also the founder of the UCL Society For The Application of Psychedelics. His research includes the use of compounds, like psilocybin, as treatments for mental health disorders.
‘Current treatments for mental health do work and there is endless evidence from personal stories and studies that confirm this, but we are going to see a revolution in the way we think about thinking and mental health,’ he says. ‘Many things will change including new therapies and medications.
‘I’ve been a drug researcher for over five years now with a special interest in psychedelic drugs for mental illness. I’ve published with some of the leading figures in the field. The future is bright, but there is a barrier to these drugs and it is inertia.
‘This comes from a long hangover from the 1960s and 1970s and the War on Drugs. However, today attitudes are changing and there are more grants and funding for these fields. Governments and agencies like the US Food And Drug Administration and NICE (National Institute For Health And Care Excellence) are getting on board. Inertia reigns, but a tipping point is on its way.’
In the UK, UCL aren’t the only ones researching into psychedelics, Imperial College London has a Centre for Psychedelic Research and biotech companies like Atai Life Sciences are researching MDMA derivates to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, alongside psilocybin and ketamine.
Change is in the air (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Across the Atlantic stories about the benefits are getting widespread attention: Hollywood actor Kristen Bell, for example, has said she tried magic mushrooms in a bid to combat her depression. The 42-year-old has battled the condition for 22 years and said reading Michael Pollan’s book How To Change Your Mind inspired her to try a new approach.
In 2019, the US Food And Drug Administration approved esketamine (a ketamine nasal spray) in conjunction with an oral antidepressant for treatment-resistant depression.
However, NICE currently does not recommend its use in the UK because of the limitations in the clinical evidence and whether it is a cost-effective use of NHS resources. However, the company has appealed, and an appraisal committee will reconvene in October.
It’s also unlikely medical cannabis will end up on the NHS anytime soon, as NICE states that: ‘Until there is clear evidence of the safety and effectiveness of cannabis-based medicinal products, specialist doctors need to consider individual patient circumstances and weigh up the relative risks and benefits in choosing treatments.’
However, the Royal College Of Psychiatrists say they support a range of treatment options for mental illness. ‘Esketamine is one of a number of potential new medications for treatment-resistant depression,’ says Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
‘Esketamine, and other novel products like psilocybin, may offer some hope for patients. With appropriate safeguards and monitoring, drugs like these could become an important new treatment option.
Published: October 06, 2022
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