Psychedelic therapy could be effective in reducing suicidality

3rd February 2022

Psychedelic therapy was found to have a positive effect on suicidality as people with severe mental health issues require new methods and treatment.

Having collected data from seven different trials, the authors of the study published in The Journal of Psychiatry found that psychedelic therapy was associated with large effect sizes for acute (80–240 min) and sustained (1 day, 1–8 weeks, and 3–4 months) decreases in suicidality.

While initial findings show that psychedelics therapy may reduce suicidality, the researchers stress the need for more trials into whether psychedelics could really offer hope for those with severe mental health issues.

Lead author Richard A. Zeifman, MA, of the department of medicine at Imperial College London, said: “Currently, no gold-standard intervention exists for targeting suicidality.

“While several interventions have been shown to lead to decreases in suicidality (eg, cognitive behavioural therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and pharmacologic interventions [eg. intravenous ketamine]), these interventions are generally limited by a number of factors.”

While people tend to look at psychedelics through the lens of recreational use, experts acknowledge that we still know little to nothing about the substances and their potential impacts.

Nonetheless, it is welcome news that more realise the potential that psychedelics have in treating some of the most severe mental health disorders.

From “magic mushrooms” and LSD to ketamine, there is a growing movement to understand psychedelics and the medical benefits they can offer over the last few years in the US and most parts of Europe.

Ketamine, as we discussed it in our psychedelic series, can be used off-license for other applications; most notably as a treatment for depression.

A recent study (published in June 2020) found that a single low dose of ketamine was associated with an increased number of serotonin 1B receptors.

Participating patients had been diagnosed with difficult-to-treat depression, following the inability of common antidepressant treatments – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Serotonin is a chemical produced naturally in our bodies to send signals between nerve cells. It has been found to contribute to mood regulation and feelings of wellbeing.

While SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels, this may not be an effective treatment for depression if there are still not enough receptors to ‘catch’ these compounds. Increasing the number of serotonin receptors can also lead to the more efficient release of another ‘feel-good’ chemical – dopamine.

As Mr Zeifman and his colleagues stated in their study, more clinical trials are needed in the matter but the ball has started rolling.

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