Psychedelics linked to better mental health amid COVID-19 pandemic

A study in Argentina finds association between the use of psychedelic substances with positive mental health outcomes.

Research shows that people who used pyschedelics at least once in their lifetimes cope better in challenging times. Kateryna Kovarzh/Getty Images

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A study has found a positive association between psychedelics and mental health during the ongoing pandemic.

In particular, the research showed that people with a history of using psychedelics cope better amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The investigators wrote that results do “not suggest an association between past psychedelic use and impaired mental health indicators”.

“On the contrary, we found evidence supporting a more resilient and stable personality structure…,” the authors concluded.

The Journal of Psychedelic Studies published the work online on May 4, 2021.

Investigators in Argentina and Chile conducted the study. They titled the paper ‘Lifetime use of psychedelics is associated with better mental health indicators during the COVID-19 pandemic’.

They noted that the study “adds to the existing literature on the relationship between mental health and lifetime psychedelic use”.

To explain, lifetime use means having taken a psychedelic compound at least once.

The study looked at self-reported use among 5,618 respondents in Argentina.

As the authors recalled, the South American country experienced “one of the longest lockdowns” in the world because of COVID-19.

“Future studies should investigate with more detail whether our results can be attributed to the long-term changes induced by psychedelics,” the researchers suggested.

Furthermore, more research may show “how these changes relate to the…potential use of psychedelics in the treatment of psychiatric disorders”.

In the abstract, the authors wrote that there is no evidence linking lifetime use of psychedelics and poor mental health.

“Conversely, experience with psychedelic drugs was linked to increased positive affect and to personality traits that favor resilience and stability in the light of the ongoing crisis,” they stated.

Examples of psychedelic substances include psilocybin and mescaline.

Psychedelics associated with positive mental health

The authors noted that psychedelics possess a molecular structure that resembles serotonin.

To elaborate, serotonin transmits signals between brain cells. It represents what people at times call as a ‘hapiness chemical’.

In the paper, the authors noted a revival in “scientific and clinical interest in psychedelics”.

This follows a “new wave of research demonstrating their potential in neuroscience, psychiatry, and as adjuncts for psychotherapy”.

“One of the major promises of psychedelics as therapeutic agents is their capacity to induce long-term psychological and behavioral changes after a single session,” the authors wrote.

As a result, psychedelics present “enormous potential” in dealing with mental health.

Specifically, these substances could help “in the treatment of certain mood disorders and addictive behaviors”.

The study found “changes in personality traits” among people who have used psychedelics.

In particular, these include “openness” or “active curiosity in the intellectual domain”.

The researchers also documented “extraversion” or a tendency for “social interactions”.

The authors wrote that openness and extraversion represent “functional characteristics”, which allow a person to face the world in a “positive way”.

In doing so, the individual will “more likely to obtain reinforcement from the interaction and thus adapt his or her behavior accordingly”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter: @carlitopablo

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