Named from the Greek psyche to convey the mind, soul, or essence of life, combined with –delic (derived from manifest, or clear) the mystery of a psychedelic can hardly fail to pique initial intrigue — but it wouldn’t be studied for long without promising, tangible results.
Luckily for psychedelics — and perhaps for humankind — those results have been found in abundance. Everywhere from Imperial College London to the University of Zurich is now taking a class of drug once associated with tie-dye and Woodstock seriously as a research frontier, with the potential to reduce death-related anxiety, increase openness to experience, and enhance long-term psychological well-being.
Psychedelics aren’t legal in most countries, or a perfect panacea — but they are in vogue.
Some of the most prominent results from the past decade of research, in a nutshell:
- LSD: Life satisfaction and well-being remained increased 12 months after a single 200 μg dose. Reduced anxiety and depression in cancer patients, as well as reduced alcohol and tobacco dependency.
- Psilocybin / magic mushrooms: Increased positive affect and reduced trait anxiety at one-month follow-up. Reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms for treatment-resistant depressives.
- Ayahuasca: Reductions in depression, improvements in quality of life, and reduced use of prescription medications for first-time users.
There is, of course, the risk of researcher bias and the placebo effect in these studies; some involve small sample sizes, which beg replication on a larger scale. Nevertheless, the picture painted is overwhelmingly promising, and correlations between subjective reported effects and observed neurochemical changes have been established.