Psychedelics don’t boost risk of mental health problems

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Those who indulge in the grooviest drugs of all, psychedelics, can take solace in knowing that researchers have found no link between the most popular varieties and mental health disorders—despite what that leprechaun with 31 eyebrows may have said the last time you dropped acid.


In a new study, researchers from Norway's University of Science and Technology in Trondheim analyzed information from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (which collected data from 2008 to 2011). Fourteen percent of people in the survey reported use of three psychedelics: LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline. And none of the psychedelic users were found to be at any increased risk of developing psychological problems along the lines of schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, anxiety disorder, or suicidal thoughts or attempts.

"Over 30 million U.S. adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems," said Pål-Ørjan Johansen, one of the study's authors as well as a clinical psychologist and co-founder of EmmaSofia, a Norwegian non-profit that aims to “increase access to quality-controlled MDMA…and psychedelics.”


(Yep, psychedelics advocates—they’re out there. In fact, the Reddit community recently voted to give two psychedelic advocacy charities a pretty massive donation.)

Johansen’s co-researcher and co-founder of EmmaSofia, Teri Suzanne Krebs, argued that psychedelics are actually less harmful than alcohol and other controlled substances. But Johansen and Krebs go even further—they, like some cannabis legalization advocates, assert that access to psychoactive drugs is a human rights issue.

“Concerns have been raised that the ban on use of psychedelics is a violation of the human rights to belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personalty, and free-time and play," Krebs said.

Now, I understand that, for some spiritual practices, psychoactive substances play a huge role. But I’m not sure that fighting for a college sophomore’s God-given right to trip out and watch Planet Earth is my cause, you know? Still, it's interesting to watch the dissolution of decades-old cultural myths surrounding drug culture, particularly in light of the revelation that psychedelics can be used in psychiatric therapeutic treatment.

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