Psychedelics as a Tool to Help Cure Depression

Psychedelic IllustrationDepression can be described as a mood disorder. It may be classified as feelings of sadness, loss, anger or disappointment that impair a person’s day to day activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 8.1 percent of American adults over the age of 20 suffered from depression at any given time during a two week period from 2013 to 2016.

Depression is a complex disease. The reason as to why exactly it happens is still not known but there are a variety of issues that increase the chances of someone suffering from it. Some people experience depression during a serious medical illness. Others may experience it due to changes in their life such as a move or the death of a loved one and some experience the sadness and loneliness felt for no apparent reason.

Symptoms may include:

  • Apprehension
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Appetite changes
  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • Reduced sexual desire
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Sadness and loneliness
  • Thoughts of suicide

Major Causes of Depression

Family history. Individuals who have a history of depression in their family are most likely to suffer from it as well.

Early childhood trauma. Past events may influence the way the body reacts to fear and stressful situations. Past physical, sexual or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability of clinical depression at a later age.

Brain structure. There is a greater chance of depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active.

Substance abuse. A history of alcohol or drug abuse tends to increase the chance of depression.

Medications. Some drugs such as corticosteroids can increase your risk of depression.

Major events. Even happy events such as a graduation, the start of a new job or getting married can lead to depression.  

Death or loss. Sadness and grief from the loss of a loved one or close friend might increase the chances of a prolonged depression.

What are Psychedelics

Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogens, are chemical substances which induce hallucinations and other sensory stimulations. They are substances that induce a heightened state of consciousness which induces the feeling of an alternate and more spiritual self. They work by adhering to receptors in the brain called serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of fulfillment and wellbeing. Some of the most popular psychedelics are psilocybin (found in mushrooms), DMT, ketamine, mescaline, LSD, and 2C-B.

Healing With Psychedelics

Depression is a challenging and long term condition that is difficult to cure. In clinical settings, research on psychedelics has shown a significant impact on mood improvement, even when it was used in just a single session.

Many people who suffered from depression and then recovered found that they needed a combination of steps to find their way out. Good nutrition, regular exercise, an increase in social time, normal sleep cycle and personal introspection (through psychedelics or meditation) can be a compelling combination; although any combination of a healthy lifestyle, along with possible medication would be advantageous towards recovery, but only sessions with a trained medical professional will be able to determine the best approach.

For years, psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD have been used in clinical trials, private therapy and at home as a cure.  In recent times, the prescribed medication ketamine has shown promising results in the healing process as well.

Any drug has a high potential for abuse; thus clinical studies delving into psychedelic research has very stringent protocols in place to prevent abuse and a bad experience. Patients for psychedelic trials undergo screening for schizophrenia and related disorders which could compromise the trial. At the same time, those who are selected undergo training sessions where they are informed about the drug they signed up to take.

Participants are taken to a room that has been set to give a warm and comforting feeling and then they are given a dose of the substance. A researcher is with them at all times during the experience which usually lasts between four to six hours and may talk them through any anxiety that the patients may experience. Typically patients are asked to don headphones as well as eyeshades and then lie down. They are encouraged to go as deep in the stimulated feeling as they can to connect with their subconscious. As the trial ends and the hallucinogenic effect wears off, patients and researchers examine the experience.   

Results of Research

A study conducted in 2010 indicated that psilocybin reduced anxiety and depression in patients who were at an advanced stage of cancer, which helped them reign in their fear of death.

Similar research conducted more recently has shown similar and promising results. In 2016, for example, a study conducted by John Hopkins and a follow up by New York University, found that 80 percent of cancer affected patients showed a significant reduction in depression, mood swings, and anxiety levels; even six months after receiving just a single dose of psilocybin.  


Between the ’50s and ’70s, the Federal government funneled millions of dollars into research in psychedelics. Through the mid 60’s psilocybin and LSD were legal and quite easily accessible. Through the Controlled Substances Act, signed by President Nixon, psilocybin was grouped with Category A class narcotics such as cocaine and heroin; prohibiting their use for any purpose. Research soon came to a halt and whatever data was collected, almost all of it got erased from the field of psychiatry. Only recently, researchers have started to delve back into conducting healing through psychedelics with promising results in a short period of time.

Psychedelic medicines provide a path of treatment that is often more productive than other methods, with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medicines. Psychedelics have also proved to be more effective for patients who have been immune to other approaches.  

If the research stays on track, the advances made could drastically change the landscape of mental health. Psychedelic treatment won’t be available for just anyone and recreational use is still banned. But those with certain illnesses could seek a psychiatrist certified in psychedelic therapy. People afflicted with terminal illnesses could enjoy the remainder of their days without the fear of death looming over them. People suffering from PTSD might find relief in normal life without suffering flashbacks or trauma.

We are not at this point right now but such is the promise of psychedelic medicine.