People who report using the psychedelic drug LSD (more commonly known as “acid”) in the past year and Salvia Divinorum are more likely to report experiencing depression and/or suicidality in the same year, according to new research published in the journal addictive behaviors.
Some hallucinogenic substances have shown promise in treating various mental health problems when combined with psychotherapy in a highly controlled setting. But studies that have examined the relationship between hallucinogenic drug use and psychiatric symptoms at a population level have produced mixed results.
The authors of the new research noted that most previous studies evaluated hallucinogen use throughout life. They argued that examining past year hallucinogenic drug use might allow a more precise analysis of potential associations.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a huge increase in clinical research into the mental health benefits of various hallucinogens,” explained study author Kevin Yang, a fourth-year medical school student and incoming psychiatry resident physician. at UC San Diego.
“Most of these studies have been done in clinically supervised settings with promising results. However, hallucinogens can be used in risky ways outside of medical settings, so we were interested in looking at associations between recreational or nonclinical use of various hallucinogens and population-level mental health outcomes. “.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data collected by the 2015-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a nationally representative annual cross-sectional survey of noninstitutionalized people in the United States. The sample included 241,675 adults.
As part of the survey, participants were asked about their use of AMT (α-methyltryptamine), DMT (dimethyltryptamine), “Foxy” (5-MeO-DIPT), ketamine, LSD, Salvia Divinorumand ecstasy or “Molly” (MDMA). The NSDUH also assessed whether participants had experienced depressive symptoms or seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months.
The researchers found that several of the substances were associated with an increased risk of depression and/or suicidality.
“We found that adults who use LSD, Salvia Divinorum, and/or DMT/AMT/Foxy were more likely to experience depression and/or suicidality in the same year. On the other hand, the opposite was observed for the use of ecstasy/MDMA (also known as Molly). This indicates that there may be different consequences of use among various hallucinogens and/or different risk factors for use outside of medical settings among adults.”
But as with any study, the new research includes some caveats. Yang and his colleagues were unable to examine past year use of psilocybin, peyote, or mescaline because the NSDUH only asked about lifetime use of these substances. Furthermore, the findings are only correlational.
“Since this was a cross-sectional study, we cannot infer causality or temporality, which raises the question of ‘the chicken or the egg,'” Yang explained. “For example, we estimated that LSD use was associated with a higher likelihood of depression in the past year. Is that the use of LSD Causes depression or are adults experiencing depression simply more likely to use LSD (for example, for self-medication)? This would be an important area of research to investigate further, as well as whether the frequency or intensity of hallucinogen use might affect the observed associations.”
“In the context of increased clinical research, media attention, and even the decriminalization of certain hallucinogens in cities and states across the United States, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of recreational hallucinogen use, as it can There may be changes in the acceptance and use of these substances,” he added.
The study, “Past Year Hallucinogen Use in Relation to Psychological Distress, Depression, and Suicidality Among American Adults,” was authored by Kevin H. Yang, Benjamin H. Han, and Joseph J. Palamar.