Drug paraphernalia including marijuana/cannabis and a methamphetamine pipe, following a police stop in Ferndale, CA, Author Ferndale Police Dept., Source https://kymkemp.com
(PD per California Public Records Act)
We continue our discussion of the risks and benefits of a drug-based psychiatric approach utilizing psychedelics to treat anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Despite growing enthusiasm for the use of psychedelics, the evidence is far from in.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) – one of the most potent hallucinogens – was studied from the 1950s to 1970s in order to assess behavioral and personality changes, as well as relief from psychiatric symptoms [2A].
LSD was originally used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, and psychosomatic illness. Readers may recall that the US Army and CIA, also, experimented with LSD as a truth serum. But most early studies were not performed to today’s standards.
Across 11 randomized-controlled studies (involving a combined total of 567 patients) positive outcomes were observed, particularly with regard to alcoholism [2B].
In rare instances, however, psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD can evoke a lasting psychotic reaction (more frequently in patients with a family history of psychosis) [3A]. Adequate screening of a patient’s vulnerability and prior psychotic episodes before the use of LSD is, therefore, emphasized.
Marijuana or cannibas (more casually referred to as “pot”, “weed” or “blow”) was initially classified as a hallucinogen, since it does alter perception [4A].
Medical cannibas has been used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), childhood epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and psychotic disorders [5A]. Evidence is weak that it can improve social anxiety or PTSD [5B].
However, cannibas can cause short-term memory loss, impaired motor skills, anxiety, depression, and paranoia [4B]. Smoking it, also, increases the risk of bronchitis and chronic cough. Users can eventually become dependent.
CBD is just one of many chemicals found in marijuana, but does not contain THD (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient which produces a high.
Lately, CBD — now marketed in the form of food, drinks, and beauty aids — has been touted as a cure-all. But the CBD content of products can vary dramatically.
Panacea or False Hope?
Regulators must soon determine how to oversee the administration of these powerful drugs [3B].
Respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the University of California at Berkeley, and Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City have opened centers for the study of psychedelics.
Several states are in the process of decriminalizing cannabis and psilocybin for therapeutic and/or recreational purposes.
“…the biology of psychiatric disorders remains unknown; the disorders in the DSM have not been validated as discrete illnesses; the drugs do not fix chemical imbalances but rather perturb normal neurotransmitter functions; and even their short term efficacy is marginal at best.”
-Award winning science author and journalist, Robert Whitaker [6A]
Unfortunately, the financial interests of large pharmaceutical companies can corrupt drug trials [6B].
And the mainstream media does not always report poor long-term outcomes from psychiatry’s drug-based approach [6C].
A study by Harvard, for instance, found that the long-term outcomes of schizophrenic patients are no better today than they were in the 1930s. Despite the widespread use of Prozac, the Centers for Disease Control state there are more Americans committing suicide than ever before .
“The Adverse Childhood Experiences study provides compelling evidence of how traumas in childhood — divorce, poverty, abuse, bullying and so forth — exact a long-term toll on physical and mental health. Interview any group of women diagnosed with a serious mental disorder, and you’ll regularly find accounts of sexual abuse. Racism exacts a toll. So too poverty, oppressive working conditions, and so forth.”
-Award winning science author and journalist, Robert Whitaker [6D]
Perhaps with love and kindness we would get further.
 JAMA Psychiatry, “A Criticism of Drug Therapy in Psychiatry” by Robert Liberman, 2/61, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/487927.
[2A and 2B] Frontiers in Psychiatry, 1/20/21, “Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials” by Juan Jose Fuentes, et al, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00943/full.
[3A and 3B] Nature, “How ecstasy and psilocybin are shaking up psychiatry” by Paul Tullis, 1/27/21, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00187-9.
[4A and 4B] Healthline, “Is Weed a Depressant, Stimulant, or Hallucinogen?” by Debra Rose Wilson PhD and RN, 5/6/19, https://www.healthline.com/health/is-weed-a-depressant.
[5A and 5B] BMC Psychiatry, “Medical cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review” by Jerome Sarris, et al, Open Access, 1/16/20, https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-019-2409-8.
[6A through 6D] Scientific American, “Has the Drug-Based Approach to Mental Health Failed?” by John Horgan , 10/17/20, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-the-drug-based-approach-to-mental-illness-failed/.
 Wikipedia, Robert Whitaker (author), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Whitaker_(author)#Awards_and_honors.
 Mad in America, “Suicide in the Age of Prozac” by Robert Whitaker, 8/6/18, https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/08/suicide-in-the-age-of-prozac/.
 PBS, Nova, S48, E13, “The Cannabis Question”, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/the-cannabis-question/.
Magic Mushroom and Ecstacy were addressed last week,
in Part 1 of this series.
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