After 50 years of being vilified as immoral and dangerous, drugs like LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms) are at the center of a resurgence in psychiatric research. It turns out these drugs might help treat conditions ranging from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Far out, indeed.
‘Shrooms’ Might Help With OCDDaniel Berehulak/Getty Images News/Getty Images
In a 2006 study at the University of Arizona, 9 patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder significantly reduced their symptoms with doses of psilocybin. Psilocybin is the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, and it's a Schedule I controlled drug, although it’s not hazardous to your health if consumed in small quantities.
Hallucinogenic Anxiety HelpGiphy / thepsychedelicward.tumblr.com
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, psychologists explored how magic mushrooms could help people with terminal cancer manage their feelings of “existential anxiety, isolation, and despair.” The research fell by the wayside, until a recent study (PDF) showed that psilocybin helped 12 adults with advanced-stage cancer reduce their feelings of anxiety, with no significant side effects. The study took years to complete, partially because psilocybin is so tightly controlled.
Fun With Mary JaneLeon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Cannabis is an increasingly popular research subject (and that’s without counting recreational use). Twenty states allow the use of medical marijuana, which may have the potential to help treat psychological conditions like ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia.
Salvia: The Anti-Drug Drug?Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
Salvia divinorum earned its 15 minutes of fame in 2010, when TMZ found a video of none other than Miley Cyrus smoking the psychedelic plant. But the plant's psychedelic properties are nothing new. Used for centuries by Mazatec shamans in Mexico, salvia might have powerful therapeutic properties. Its active ingredient, salvinorin A, is a potent “anti-addiction” drug that helps repair neural circuitry rewired by drugs like cocaine.
"Magic" Anti-Smoking TrickBloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Even the best methods for quitting smoking have a checkered success rate. Most only work about 35 percent of the time. But a recently published Johns Hopkins study found that controlled doses of psilocybin helped 80 percent of smokers—each of whom smoked two packs a day on average—quit for at least six months.
Get InspiredMarcel Ter Bekke/Moment Mobile/Getty Images
As it is often the case in academia, recent studies on psilocybin have, ahem, inspired continuing research. A new study at New York University is aimed at better understanding how psilocybin affects perception, hopefully leading to “improvements in anxiety, depression, pain, attitude towards disease progression, quality of life, and spirituality associated with cancer.”
LSD: Help For Anxiety?Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
In 2010, a Swiss study found that LSD-assisted psychotherapy could help treat people suffering from anxiety related to life-threatening illnesses. Better yet, the LSD-assisted psychotherapy had long-term benefits, helping people reduce their anxiety over a year.
1-2 Punch: LSD And PsilocybinH. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images
Cluster headaches are blindingly painful, especially because they occur in short bursts of attacks (hence “cluster”). Treatments for cluster headaches exist, but there aren’t any medications that cure or prevent cluster headaches. A 2006 Harvard study (PDF) found that LSD and psilocybin not only prevented an onset of cluster headaches but also helped extend the periods of remission between bouts.
Treating PTSD With MDMAWikimedia Commons / X1987x
In chronic cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be extremely difficult to treat. In a 2013 study, however, patients responded well to an unconventional treatment: the drug MDMA, the pure form of what is often called ecstasy. The tightly-controlled MDMA treatment improved the patients’ psychological health over the long term, and none of the patients reported any adverse effects from the treatment.
Fighting Drugs With...DrugsWikimedia Commons / Psychonaught
Ketamine is a milder psychoactive drug, with no health hazards and short-acting effects. A 10-year-long Russian study has suggested that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy may be an effective treatment for alcoholics, and may even fight heroin addiction. Plus, unlike LSD and MDMA, ketamine is not a Schedule I controlled substance.