With new scientific research underway, individuals who struggle with severe depression may turn their backs to the pharmaceutical companies and try a more natural—yet highly illegal—substance to alleviate their symptoms.
For years, many individuals have looked to pharmaceutical companies for a solution to their unhappiness. According to a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the percentage of Americans taking antidepressants has nearly doubled between 1999 and 2012.
It is estimated that 1 in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant.
Until recently, the psychological effects of patients who take antidepressants were vastly over-looked and were not taken into much consideration. A study conducted by the University of Liverpool found that the psychological and interpersonal effects of taking antidepressants could be “worse than previously thought.”
Although 82 percent of participants claimed antidepressants helped alleviate their depression, 60 percent reported feelings of “emotional numbness,” and over one-third of the participants reported suicidal thoughts.
In a study conducted to understand how different cultures express sympathy, research suggests that Americans are more positive when expressing sorrowful emotions and also tend to avoid negative feelings more than other cultures. This avoidance of difficult emotions could explain why nearly 41 million Americans seek emotional relief through antidepressants. With more Americans dying annually from suicide than in car accidents, it seems fairly urgent that an actual cure for depression should be offered to the public, if found.
Recently, a trial conducted by the Imperial College of London reaffirmed the effectiveness of psilocybin, a psychedelic found naturally in various types of mushrooms around the world, in treating mental health issues. 12 participants with severe, drug-resistant depression volunteered to take high doses of psilocybin.
According to the study, “the patients received Home Office-approved psilocybin capsules during two dosing sessions seven days apart.” Within one week, the participants no longer experienced symptoms of depression or self-loathing. Three months after the trial, five of the participants still had no lingering symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Andrew Thayer, a participant in the study explains his psychedelic experience as pleasant at first, but later became “dark.” Ross Watts, a psychologist, assisted Thayer throughout his entire experience.
“Often with psychedelics, emotions and difficult experiences that have been repressed because they’re so uncomfortable and painful come to the surface, and that can be very healthy and very positive in terms of change,” Watts said. “Avoidance of difficult emotion is really at the heart of many mental health difficulties.”
Psilocybin mushrooms are illegal to obtain in many countries and are listed as a Schedule 1 substance with no currently accepted medical value in the United States. Government regulations make it extremely challenging for researchers to access permission to conduct scientific studies, and therefore research on what could be adopted as the new antidepressant is being purposefully held back.
Psilocybin is considered by experts to be one of the safest psychoactive compounds available. It is a non-addictive and has no overdose risk. Psilocybin is safer to use than tobacco and alcohol and does not come with the risk of suicide as a side-effect. With proper dosage and care, we can be hopeful that future scientific studies reaffirming the effectiveness of psychedelics will help to redefine them as therapeutic tools instead of drugs that cause chaos in society.