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Far Out: Psychedelic Drugs Show Great Promise for Medical Treatment

© AP Photo / Drug Enforcement AdministrationEcstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical
Ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical - Sputnik International
New research suggests notorious, illicit "street drugs" could be effective in treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and tobacco or alcohol addiction, as long as drug administration is strictly controlled.

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Preliminary studies conducted by scientists in Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and the US have showed that psychedelic drugs, long frowned upon within the conservative medical community, can actually benefit patients with certain conditions, like PTSD and depression stemming from terminal illness, according to findings published in this month's Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy), which gained both popularity and notoriety starting in the 1960s, have long been considered by the dominant medical establishment to have no provable beneficial therapeutic use.

"It's been a long road — this started back in the mid-late 1990s when the [US Food and Drug Administration] started to approve some of these very early studies," said senior author Matthew W. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins University. "It's been a cautious road, but one that's data-driven".

That said, Johnson warned that people shouldn't try and treat themselves with these drugs without careful supervision.

"These drugs need to be researched according to a strict regulatory process, the same as you would develop any drug," he said.

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Although Johnson's research required tight controls — careful screening of participating patients and close monitoring during medication intake — the researchers were pleased with the results. Small pilot tests showed that "relatively time-limited interventions" had enduring benefits when psychedelics were tested jointly with psychotherapy for PTSD, or psilocybin for alcohol dependence.

The revelation that a range of mental disorders could potentially be treated with the use of psychedelics has exposed the need for trials on a larger scale, in line with scientific, ethical and safety standards modern-day peer-reviewed research is known and respected for, the scientists believe.

"More and more people are becoming interested and even jumping into the field to start trials themselves," Johnson said.

The use of psychedelics could also be convenient cost-wise these days when economy is sought in medical care, according to the study team.

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