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What nurses need to know about psychedelic drugs

Updated: May 6, 2021

We could be administering psychedelic drugs as soon as 2025. In 2018, the Drug Enforcement Agency set up an online portal to streamline the approval for psychedelics research, which in most states are still Schedule 1 drugs. There are multiple pharmaceutical companies, including John Hopkins, Mind Medicine, Compass Pathways, Ehave, and Revive, dedicated to the research and efficacy of psychedelics. You can read more about these organizations here. The potential for therapeutic benefits and the drugs are listed below:

· LSD-Lysergic acid diethylamine AKA acid; possible treatment: anxiety, addiction, ADHD

· MDMA-Methylene dioxy methamphetamine AKA Molly, Ecstacy; potential treatment: PTSD, Social anxiety disorder In Autism spectrum

· Psilocybin AKA "magic mushrooms"; potential treatment: smoking cessation, Alzheimer's, Anorexia Nervosa, Depression

· DMT- dimethyltryptamine or active ingredient in Ayahuasca; potential treatment: addiction disorder

This is good news since we know that current therapies are limited, and the mental health crisis is only getting worse. Also, psychedelic therapy can go beyond mental health disorders and may be effective for autoimmune diseases such as Asthma and RA.

Psychedelics became Schedule 1 drugs after the much-politicized war on drugs in the 70s and, until the past five years, have had limited research into their efficacy for mainstream therapeutic use. Even so, psychedelics have had their proponents over the years, namely MAPS or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic studies, and most of us have heard about the rich and famous illegally experimenting with the drugs. And the stories are not all bad. In fact, they are relatively positive.

Robin Quivers of the Howard Stern Show came to the realization that all was well after she stopped wretching, a side effect that lessens with refinement. And Tim Ferris is a financial supporter of psychedelic therapy research after his experience. Ferris had grand mal seizures during therapy, coming out of it pretty bruised and battered. He said he would do it again, though, because he experienced a sense of well-being that improved for months after taking the drugs. Hear more about that here and here.

Despite the side effects, which is the risk of taking the drugs illegally and unrefined for therapy, psychedelics have massive potential. Psychedelic drugs are called brain disruptors, and they work on the whole brain, but primarily on the "thinking part of your brain," where the conscious part of your brain sets up fixed networks. Your conscious brain sets up these networks so you perceive the world based on your past experiences and set beliefs. When psychedelic medications break these connections, they enable your brain to see other options and experience emotions and thoughts that previously were not available. You can read more about that here and here and here. After taking the drugs, you may be more amenable to therapy, or you may better understand a horrible experience that led to PTSD.

Another new product in development is a psychedelic neutralizer drug. It can reverse the effect of a psychedelic, much like Narcan does for opioids. A neutralizer can be beneficial if a patient experiences a "bad trip" (not as likely as we believe) so you can safely continue therapy. This drug may help people feel safer and be safer once under the effect of a psychedelic. The drug is called ketanserin and is classified as an antihypertensive.

Psychedelic pharmaceutical companies will begin training with psychiatrists and psychotherapists to use these drugs during therapy safely. There is widespread interest in education, but there will be professionals not amenable to it simply because of the politics and labeling throughout the last half-century. There are a few other social concerns as well.

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