One reading the title may think, yes I know a lot about mental health, it’s a common topic which is talked about yet hidden away in the minds of us human beings as some, may see mental health as a weakness or may feel that it is something that many look down upon when really according to the mental health foundation 4-10% of people living in the United kingdom will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime the most common being depression and anxiety.
As a teenager who has experienced mental health issues through one situation or another whether it be anxiety or depression , it got me thinking with suicide being at 5,668 (2016 figures) if there is a way in which we can finally eradicate mental health once and for all ( being the optimist that I am).
With drugs such as anti-depressants, Benzodiazepines (which help to treat agitation, insomnia) and non-medical treatments such as help from a psychiatrist got me thinking about if these are sustainable. For example antidepressants may not help at all and may have the mind tricked that they do work and can therefore lead to things such as being addicted to the antidepressant as you may feel like they do work when in reality they don’t and also they can have negative side effects and ongoing costs for the patient and the NHS (this being one example of many).
So in a search to find any other alternatives I came across a news article about psychedelics. Psychedelic drugs are more likely to be associated with countercultures of the 1960s than those who work in the lab: but who says two worlds can’t mix especially when it’s about saving the human race from one more thing that can lead to death.
Increasingly, scientists are looking at whether these mind-altering drugs – which also include mescaline and DMT among others – might also have the potential to be mind-healing.
A number of small studies have found psychedelics to show promise in treating mental health disorders like depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, often where other treatments have failed.
Now UK researchers are about to take part in the first major trials into whether one of these hallucinogenic drugs could be more effective than a leading antidepressant in the treatment of depression.
Researchers at Imperial College London are to compare the magic mushroom compound psilocybin with a leading SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressant, escitalopram, in a large trial expected to take at least two years.
“[Psychedelics] have a revolutionary potential, and that’s not an exaggeration,” says Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, who will lead the study.
But it is not the first time scientists have been excited about these mind-altering substances.
More than 50 years ago the idea of psychedelics came to the forefront of the medicinal world but was halted.
However, with everything comes the good and the bad . Starting with the negatives some can argue that making psychedelics legal can blur the boundary between medicine and just plane taking it for granted (likened to how argue patients take antibiotics for granted). A further point is that UN convention on the drugs in 1971 effectively ended scientific research, because it led member states to make them illegal and classify them as Schedule 1 drugs – those deemed to have no medicinal benefit.
Counter arguing this is that there are some beliefs that they will have benefits. For example in 2009, Dr Carhart-Harris became the first UK scientist in more than 40 years to research psychedelics, beginning a series of studies using scanners to see how psilocybin affects the brain.
Among other findings, a study from his team last year found that psilocybin ( a type of psychedelic drug) can reset the brains of people with untreatable depression
The paper, published in the journal of scientific reports, showed psilocybin affected two areas of the brain: The amygdala, which is heavily involved in how we process emotions such as fear and anxiety, and the default-mode network – a collaboration of different brain regions.
How psilocybin affects the brain is not yet fully understood, but Dr Carhart-Harris believes it effectively “heats up” the mind from its rigidity, enabling people to overcome ingrained, self-destructive patterns of thinking.
In conclusion the use of psychedelics with continuation of them being safely trialed and tested showing that they do work when it comes to treating mental health, can become a new evolution of drugs, although taking a long time for them to be implemented. In addition to this one needs to understand that they may not be everyone’s first choice and non-medical treatments and anti-depressant drugs may still be a fan fave, as Dr Carhart-Harris says “Some people won’t want to go to the depths of their soul or face demons or traumas they’ve experienced, or dark aspects of the human condition that are there in all of us,” but overall it’s about giving people options and the hope that they can live their lives and not feel constricted or controlled. As I said above I am quite an optimist and maybe “eradicate” wasn’t the best verb to use , but with time, advancements in technology and medicine, mental may not sooner but later be a thing of the past.