Psychedelics Could Transform How People Age, Die

August 28, 2023 11:45:02

Psychedelics are poised to transform mental health and the psychiatry industry in major ways. A recent surge of psychedelic-related research and clinical trials has revealed that the federally controlled drug may have prolific mental health benefits, especially against conditions that don’t always respond to modern mental health treatments.

When paired with talk therapy, psychedelics can deliver immense long-term benefits against mental conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. Furthermore, research has found that psychedelics have barely any adverse side effects and can offer long-term relief after only a few doses, making them significantly more effective than conventional antidepressants, which require daily use and have many side effects.

Psychedelics may be especially effective at treating the severe existential anguish that affects people with terminal conditions or in hospice. Conventional care for such individuals often focuses on alleviating their physical symptoms and making them as comfortable as possible without placing as much care on their mental health.

Hallucinogens such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD and MDMA may be critical to treating mental anguish in people with life-threatening or terminal conditions. Even more, psychedelics could be key to helping the general public, not just people with terminal diagnoses, deal with the natural process of aging and dying.

After receiving a stage IV cancer diagnosis, Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Roland Griffiths says he began living the “most awake and joyous time of his life,” partly thanks to psychedelic experiences and his history with meditation. Griffith is a major player in psychedelic research, leading a landmark 2016 study that investigated the potential of psilocybin-assisted therapy in addressing existential distress in patients with cancer.

For many cancer patients who undergo psychedelic-assisted therapy, the process results in a “profound and enduring mental shift” that sees them stop worrying about impending death and focus on savoring every present moment. Psychedelics present a unique opportunity for people to approach aging and death not with fear but with thankfulness and an appreciation for their lives and experiences.

Several studies involving hundreds of cancer patients have repeatedly found that psychedelic-assisted therapy can treat existential distress in people with life-threatening or terminal health conditions.  Although the novel treatment wasn’t effective for every study participant, those who responded often reported profound and enduring benefits.

However, it will take time before psychedelic-assisted treatments are accessible to the general public. Psychedelics are still illegal at the federal level as well as in most states, and patients can only access psychedelic-assisted treatments through a small number of selective clinical trials or in costly overseas retreats.

However, this could change if entities such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) successfully commercialize psychedelic treatments. The wave of calls to reform psychedelic laws is likely to get stronger once FDA-approved hallucinogenic treatments are on the market.

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