Psychedelic Trips Don't Harm Mental Health

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After emerging from drug-induced hallucinations, people often describe their experiences as mystical and introspectively illuminating. But psychedelic mushrooms, peyote, LSD and related drugs can also cause confusion, paranoia and emotional angst — raising questions about whether they have any long-term impact on mental health.

A new study nixes those worries. Taking a hallucinogenic trip, two Norwegian researchers found, does not raise the risk of psychological distress, psychotic symptoms, panic attacks, social phobias, depression, PTSD or other mental illnesses.

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The study included data on more than 130,000 people who took an annual survey on drug use and health. Nearly 22,000 of the respondents had taken a psychedelic drug in their lifetimes.

Besides failing to find any link between hallucinogens and mental problems, the study actually found lower rates of serious psychological distress in people who had taken mescaline (found naturally in the peyote cactus) or psilocybin (the active compound in mushrooms) in their lives and in people who had taken LSD in the previous year.

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Compared to other respondents, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE, people who had taken acid at some time in their lives also had lower rates of prescriptions for psychiatric medicines and lower rates of outpatient mental health treatment.

Those findings don’t necessarily mean that psychedelics are good for you. Instead, it’s possible that psychedelic-drug users start out more mentally robust. The link might also be a false positive due to chance.

Still, the new findings fall in line with what other studies have shown: There seem to be no lasting, long-term mental effects of psychedelic use.

Image: Computer artwork illustrates a molecule of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Pasieka/Corbis

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