Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs have been a controversial topic since their effects were first discovered in the 1940s. The euphoric emotions and experiences felt by those under their influence have led some researchers to believe using the drug can lead to mental illness and other negative long-term effects.
A study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), however, now claims LSD and other psychedelics are not linked to mental illnesses. On the contrary, clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen and researcher Teri Krebs say there’s a link between the hallucinogens and fewer mental health issues. Their research is now publicly available in the journal PLOS ONE.
Those who experiment with psychedelics often hail them as life-changing and report having spiritual experiences while under their influence. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was an outspoken proponent of the use of LSD in his early days and said his experimentation with the drug marked a turning point in his life. On the other hand, songwriter Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) blames the drugs for the mental anguish he experienced for many years thereafter. Syd Barret, legendary guitarist for Pink Floyd, also claims to have experienced mental issues after taking these drugs.
To conduct their research, Krebs and Johansen borrowed data from the 2001 − 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in the United States. Here, participants were asked about their mental health and any treatments they had taken over the past 12 months. Specifically, the NTNU researchers were looking for reported cases of general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and psychosis.
Of those surveyed, 22,000 reported taking psychedelics at least once. After analyzing the data, they discovered those who took the drugs as recently as the previous year were not any more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness. There was also no link between those who continued to use acid, peyote or psylocybin mushrooms throughout their lifetime. In fact, Krebs and Johansen found, if anything, these hallucinogens were associated with fewer mental health issues. Those who continued to use the drugs were less likely to find themselves in a mental health facility or take psychiatric medications.
Though their results showed no direct link between taking psychedelics and developing mental illness, they have not ruled out the possibility of any negative side effects.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote in their research. On the other hand, notes Johansen, other clinical trials have also been unable to discover a link between the drugs and mental illness, and numerous anecdotal cases continue to report long-lasting benefits and life-changing experiences.
“Other studies have found no evidence of health or social problems among people who had used psychedelics hundreds of times in legally-protected religious ceremonies,” said Johansen.
Previous studies have found some positive physical benefits associated with taking psychedelic drugs. As hallucinogens are known to give people the ability to access and relive lost or repressed memories, those who struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been prescribed these drugs to help them work out their disorder.
One hallucinogen, called ibogaine, has been known to give users a 36-hour trip which allows them to access their emotions and relive experiences. This drug — and the resulting trip — has also been successfully shown to break people of their addictions to alcohol, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine.