Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Psychedelic Healing?

Brown, D.J. (January 2008). Psychedelic Healing? Scientific American Mind, 66-71.

Between 1897 and 1972, many studies were conducted on the therapeutic effects of psychotropic drugs; however, there were virtually no such studies conducted between 1972 and 1990 largely due to political reasons. Since then, research has begun anew, specifically into tryptamines (e.g. LSD, psilocybin) and phenethylamines (e.g. mescaline, MDMA). Tryptamine hallucinogens are thought to bind to serotonin-2A receptors in the cortex, effectively interfering with the processing of sensory information. The beneficial effects observed, such as positive changes in mood, reduction of anxiety, and raising of the pain threshold, may arise from subsequent 5HT-2A receptor downregulation. Phenethylamines are believed to mimic the effects of the dopamine neurotransmitter, but may also bind to the same serotonin receptors activated by the tryptamines. As psychedelics are known to elicit behavioral processes that are useful in the therapeutic context, such as enhanced symbolism and imagery, increased suggestibility, increased contact between emotions and ideations, and controlled regression, with the proper set and setting drug-assisted psychotherapy may show the potential to relieve patients who suffer with treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders.

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