Psychedelics may treat COVID-19 related mental health issues

According to the journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry, psychedelics may be the answer to combating mental health struggles due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has impacted society in many ways, and people’s mental health is no exception.

However, not all seems lost according to a team of Canadian researchers. Comprised of people who specialise in medicine, substance use and psychology, the team argues that “psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy” will be more effective at treating the symptoms of “PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions, and social disconnection”.

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“As such, we would be remiss not to consider a novel approach with anti-depressive, anxiolytic, and anti-addictive potential that may also foster a sense of social and environmental connectedness,” the team wrote in their article.

Specifically, the team cited MDMA and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) as the drugs which should be used.

Both have been the subjects of studies regarding “treatment-resistant” PTSD and depression.

According to the article, a study into psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy (published in the 2020 JAMA Psychiatry journal) found that it “produced marked antidepressant effects in patients with [a] major depressive disorder: 71% had clinically significant reductions and 54% achieved remission 4 weeks later”.

In other words, the psychedelic treatment was far more effective at treating patients’ symptoms than psychotherapy alone.

At the same time, an experiment with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy (published in the 2021 Nature journal) found that “67% of participants no longer met [the] clinical criteria for PTSD 2 months following” their treatment.

The results gave the researchers confidence to propose that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be used to treat other “trauma-related disorders”. These include “social anxiety among adults with autism, end-of-life anxiety/psychological distress, alcohol use disorder and eating disorders”.

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Ron Bauer – the founder of Theseus Capital, an investment company that funds global science and technology-based companies, agreed with the Canadian researchers in an opinion piece for Newsweek:

“‘Generation COVID’ could be suffering throughout their entire lifetime. We have a professional and personal duty to try everything possible to find new innovative treatments to reduce this burden and effect on society as a whole.”

“[W]e need to stop treating psychedelics as illicit recreational drugs and go back to looking at them in the same way we did before the war on drugs started: seeing psychedelics as promising drugs with the potential to effectively treat a range of conditions and help patients in need worldwide.”

“Conditions that, after the pandemic, I fear will be more widespread than ever before.”

According to the Black Dog Institute, it’s estimated “between 25% and 33% of the [Australian] community has been in a heightened state of anxiety” due to the pandemic.

Apart from people with pre-existing conditions, the institute believes that healthcare workers, people in quarantine/unemployed and the casual workforce are at greater risk of developing mental health conditions.