From nightclub to trial: Why psychedelics are the new friend of mental health

Following on from our last article, we are delving deeper into the psychedelic rabbit hole. Examining the newly repaired reputation of psycho-active drugs, the evolution of psychedelics from party-drug to lifesaver-drug is well on its way. Psychedelics are gaining popularity as a mental health super drug. 

The swinging sixties lead to some positive social changes but the psychedelic movement didn’t boast as much success. Its relationship with counterculture and Timothy Leary, made it a primary target for Nixon’s conservative America. The criminalisation of psychedelics placed a massive spanner in the works of clinical trials. 

Traditional treatments aren't working

Fast forward to 2021, traditional medicine is proving to be less and less effective in the face of depression and PTSD; mainstream treatments are no longer working and several esteemed research bodies are branching out. Alternative medicine is having a moment, we are experiencing an explorative environment, with hopes to help aid modern medicine through the use of psycho-active plants. 

Legitimising and reinventing psychedelics as a safe and viable way to cure mental health related issues is having its renaissance. 

Third wave:

  • 2017- The FDA accepts MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, awarding it Breakthrough Therapy Status 
  • 2019- Colorado, Denver and Oakland, California state decriminalise psilocybin mushrooms 
  • 2020- Santa Cruz, California wins votes to decriminalise psychedelic substances including mushrooms and Peyote plant
  • MindMed becomes the first psychedelics company 
  • Oregon decriminalises all drugs, and legalises psilocybin 
  • Washington DC decriminalises halogenic psychedelics 
  • Evidence found to support DMT as stimulant to produce of new brain cells 

The psychedelics drug market is projected to reach $10.75 Billion By 2027, and with mental health issues on the rise, covid has placed a strong spotlight on this growing concern. Dr Nutt explains that “the criminalisation and banning of psychedelics is the worst censorship of research – not just medical research, but research – in the history of the world.” Placing psychedelics in academic settings will help to reverse the premature restriction of the medical psychedelics. Having broader and wider cultural acceptance of mental health issues and alternative medicine will help improve mainstream medicine. 

SSRIs...a bandaid not a solution?

Presently, Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (aka SSRIs), is the most commonly prescribed drug for depression or anxiety. In theory, it seems to make perfect sense ... Serotonin increased in the brain, making you happier, right? WRONG...for many. Common side effects are the following:

  • feeling anxious
  • feeling or being sick
  • indigestion 
  • diarrhoea or constipation 
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • dizziness 
  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • excessive sweating 
  • sleeping problems (insomnia) or drowsiness
  • headaches 
  • low sex drive 
  • difficulty achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation
  • in men, difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)

(See NHS website,

For a lot of users, SSRI’s and its side effects are too much, or in rare cases no mood change is felt at all. With high relapse rates, terrible withdrawal symptoms; SSRI’s are over prescribed. Since it went on market in 1987 there hasn’t been any significant pharmaceuticals that have changed the mental health game. 

Until now!

Whats the difference? Why psychedelics? 

If we are comparing psychedelics to SSRI’s, both operate by targeting serotonin. SSRI’s soften and suppress both happy and negative emotions, psilocybin acts on emotions and encourages an individual to connect and process them. Typically with trials, a guided psychedelic trip is sandwiched between counselling sessions. With two trained therapists who carefully consider and administer the psychoactive drug; the synthesised, perfectly dosed psychedelics are taken in a safe and controlled environmental.

Set and setting means controlling mindset and environment going into the trip. Hoping to induce feelings of other worldliness and mystical experiences; the dissolution of the ego breaks long-term negative cycles/patterns of thoughts, thus paralysing our preprogrammed strategies and responses. This disruption leaves a sense of revelation in patients and is proven to increase neuroplasticity - leaving lasting impressions and changes on the individual. 

Integrate, integrate, integrate...

Like with most treatment plans, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of therapy and counselling sessions. Psychedelic-therapy triggers a wave of oxytocin, a pro-social hormone that squashes anxiety and confirms feelings of trust. The effects last up to a week, making this a prime time to integrate any revelations from the trip itself.  Psychedelics although amazing in their own right, unfortunately is not a panacea (there is no such thing)... but it does act as a catalyst to enhance the healing process and this is what is so exciting. Using altered states as a tool to open the door for healing - is ground breaking for our modern world, but not new (altered states for therapeutic use has been around since time immemorial). 

Psychedelics are finally scratching the itch on mental healths back; maybe going back to basics will provide the answers to life’s big unanswered mental health questions.  

We need it more than ever. 

image @vsco

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