A new study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has found that use of psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) on 135,095 respondents aged ≥18 years from 2008-2011 was pooled to examine the association between psychedelic drug use and mental health. Of these respondents, 19,299 reported lifetime use of a psychedelic substance (LSD, psilocybin,mescaline, or peyote). Self-reported indicators of past year mental health problems were the following: psychological distress during the worst month of the past year (assessed with the K6 scale), mental health treatment (including treatment for substance disorders, inpatient, outpatient, psychiatric medication prescription, felt a need for but did not receive mental health treatment), suicidal thoughts, suicide plan, suicide attempt, symptoms of major depressive episode (assessed with a questionnaire adapted from the National Comorbity Survey),  physician diagnosis of depression, and physician diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.

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The psychedelic drug users in the survey were more likely than non-users to report a depressive episode before the age of 18, but lifetime use was not associated with any of the indicators of mental health problems. The association between psilocybin use and a lower likelihood of past year serious psychological distress, inpatient mental health treatment, and psychiatric medication prescription was statistically significant but only a weak significance was seen with past year use of LSD and a lower likelihood of serious psychological distress.

The authors conclude that with this study, which supports results from previous population studies and randomized controlled trials, it is difficult to view the prohibition of psychedelic drugs as a justified public health measure.

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