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Study: Psychedelics improve mental health, reduce suicide risk

Related article: Meditation as effective as psychotherapy for depression

Researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham evaluated five years of responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from nearly 200,000 adults, publishing their results last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The results were astonishing: not only did lifetime users of psychedelic drugs have much lower levels of psychological stress in the past month, they also had significantly reduced odds of not only suicidal thinking and planning, but suicidal attempts over the past year.

The mechanisms behind the positive effect of psychedelics on mental health were not discussed in the new study, but a 2013 study published in the journal Experimental Brain Research found that psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”, was able to diminish the fear response in mice and even stimulate brain growth in key areas associated with negative emotions.

With the United States currently in the midst of a mental health crisis of epic proportions, in fact suicide recently passed up car accidents as the number one cause of injury related death in the country, you would think that substances found to dramatically reduce both symptoms and risk of death would be met with fanfare.

But psychedelic substances remain highly restricted in the U.S. and in most of the world. In some states, you can even catch a life sentence in prison for selling LSD.

This new study only highlights the need for a nation with both a fast-growing mental health problem and the highest incarceration rate in the world to seriously re-consider its stance on psychedelic substances, the drug war and alternative medicine.

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