In recent years, the debate on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of certain psychiatric diseases is increasingly rich, reinforced by numerous publications of clinical studies concerning this type of treatment. It is obvious that public opinion, extremely polarized on the subject, slowed down a scientific approach to the discussion, but this did not cause major problems for many researchers and academics, who nevertheless continued to feed their curiosity with more and more comprehensive research and studies. . . Given the current growing need to expand the methodology of treating mental illnesses, studies on the use of these substances have led to important results: it is therefore necessary to clarify what kind of substances it is and why they are so important in understanding neurophysiological processes and in the treatment of many psychiatric and neurological pathologies.
First of all, when we talk about psychedelics, we are referring to a class of substances with a psychoactive effect that create little or no habituation and they have the ability to expand consciousness and cause sensory amplifications and alterations. Word ‘psychedelia’ – union of the Greek words ‘soul’, ψυχή (psyche), and ‘manifest’, δήλος (delos) – was coined in 1956 by Canadian psychiatrist Humphry Osmondfriend of the English writer Aldous Huxleyauthor of the famous essay The Gates of Perceptionwho said in a magazine interview The Paris review this psychedelics provide insightful information about the people around you and your life, recalling a large amount of hidden material in a relatively short time.
In the field of psychedelic psychotherapy, under the observation of academics, there are the psilocybinI’LSDI’MDMA and other psychoactive substances, such as the new esketamineI’enantiomer S of ketamine, an anesthetic that has been used for many years to treat depression (enantiomers are molecular entities that are mirror images of each other and are not superimposable). These are substances that, in the medical field, would be associated with psychotherapy sessions aimed at maximizing the benefits of the experiences and reducing the risks, which in reality turned out to be minimal. The teacher. Stefano Pallantifounder ofNeuroscience Instituteexplains in an article that esketamine has got FDA approval (Food and Drug Administration) specifically for use as a nasal spray for patients with treatment-resistant depression. Specifically, in the article he writes:
“Esketamine is derived from part of the ketamine molecule but is more potent and can be used in lower doses with fewer side effects. It is currently indicated for people with treatment-resistant depression. That is, all patients who have tried at least two other antidepressants (for at least six weeks each) without experiencing remission or at least a 50% improvement in their mood“.
the National Institute of Healthin the wake of these successes, is the first financier of a study involving psychedelics: first of all psilocybin, whose researchers from the Johns Hopkins University are studying the efficacy against cigarette addiction.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatryfrom seven studies selected on the basis of the chosen criteria, showed that whatever the characteristics of the patients and the type of therapy, this treatment reduces the risk of suicidecontrary to what we thought.
The psychologists involved in the research, Daniel Disgusting man And rock Hendrick from University of Alabama at Birmingham, define the future prospects of psychedelic therapy in the treatment of depression as optimistic; moreover, it is an innovation with very little competition, if we consider that medicine, at least from a pharmacological point of view, is struggling to make significant progress in the field of mental disorders.
But a lot of controversy still revolves around psychedelics. For about two decades since the 1950s, they have been the subject of extensive medical research for treatment of alcoholism and other forms of addiction or to relieve anxiety and depression in the terminally ill. Timothy Learyone of the most important scholars and supporters of psychedelic culture, he experiments with them and advocates their use to liberate the mind and, more generally, to open it up to new transcendental experiences. The popular label that the American researcher attributed to psychedelics had a negative effect in the society of excesses of the 1960s, provoking the reaction of conservative factions of American society. Indeed, after years of legalization, in 1970 Richard Nixon banned its usethus also preventing medical research, a decision that was immediately adopted by all Western realities.
Only recently, after more than twenty years, has it been possible to resume studies on these substances, whose history is deeply linked to social, cultural and political dynamics of the XXth century. The most studied substance currently is ketamine, which has more than fifty clinical trials, followed by psilocybin, studied to fight depression, addictions and anxiety in dying patients. LSD, on the other hand, is currently still little studied, but it is considered very promising for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety.
This substance (lysergic acid diethylamide) was synthesized in 1938 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmanwho was researching a parasitic fungus of grasses – theergot from ergot – on behalf of the pharmaceutical company for which he worked, with the aim of synthesizing a new drug stimulating cardio-respiratory functions. But the effects psychotropic of this substance, they did not become clear until five years later, in 1943, when he accidentally took a small dose. This experience led him to deepen the research and experiments he carried out on himself with his collaborators. In 1979 Hoffman published the book LSD – My Problem Childto tell the experience of the discovery of LSD and the problems related to this substance.
Admittedly, public opinion, from the 1970s, did not at all facilitate the promotion of a possible questioning of the use of psychedelics in the medical field: it was said, for example, that LSD burned brain cells, which gave birth to abnormal fetuses and was therefore extremely dangerous.
But after years of taboo, psychedelic research is finally beginning to take its first decisive steps, even in Italy. Giorgio Samorini, botanist and one of the first Italian researchers in the field of psychedelics, who deals specifically with the relationship between psychoactive plants and human culture, points out that today a return to hallucinogens is necessary. The widespread use of psychedelics beyond environments underground led to a paradigm shift in the media: making psychedelics illegal did not stop their spread in society, only blocked their use for psychiatric research.
Interest in psychedelic psychiatry therefore seems to be growing, even if it is difficult to know when the next therapies will be accepted. The fundamental problem is the lack of economic interest regarding the development of this therapy. Psychedelics are mostly patent-free and pharma-funded, for which it is difficult to carry out in-depth studies, studies which are difficult to carry out today, also taking into account the limited interest of research for the treatment of mental disorders. Although the road to creating a functional narrative for psychedelic psychiatry is still long, we see the first signs of a media paradigm shift, one of the foundations that could contribute to a change in orientation of the ethical paradigm. , where they have no prejudices.