The use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, such as magic mushrooms or peyote, does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to a just-released study.
Researcher Teri Krebs and clinical psychologist Dr. Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Neuroscience, conducted an analysis of data from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 who had used psychedelics at least once.
The researchers found no link between the use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems. In fact, they actually found some associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and fewer mental health problems.
For their analysis, the researchers relied on data collected in the U.S. during the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. During the survey, participants were asked about mental health treatment and symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions over the past year, including general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.
Armed with this information, the researchers then examined if there were any associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and mental health problems. They found none.
“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD, was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” said Johansen.
The researchers actually found that a lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and the use of LSD in the past year were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress.
Lifetime use of LSD was also “significantly” associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription, the researchers noted.
The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.
“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,” the researchers said in the study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers continued.
In fact, added Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”
“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,” Johansen noted.
According to the researchers, psychedelics are different than other recreational drugs. They note that experts say psychedelics do not cause addiction or compulsive use, and they are not known to harm the brain.
When evaluating psychedelics, it is important to take an objective view of all the evidence and avoid being biased by anecdotal stories either of harm or benefit, the researchers said.
“Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society,” Johansen said. “Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare.”
“Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population,” Krebs added.
“Over the past 50 years, tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems.”