Most of us are no strangers to the stress imposed on us as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple studies from across the world have recorded the impact of the pandemic on not only our financial situations but also our psychological and social states. However, a study found that those who consume psychedelics were under less stress despite the pandemic conditions.
Medical News Today explains that not only did people lose their lives and their loved ones, but their mental health also took a major hit. Many were struggling to cope with isolation, job loss, financial instability, and the impact of widespread death.
People are reportedly feeling “more agitated, more stressed, more restless and more sleepless”. A survey from March 2020 found that, there was an increase in alcohol and cannabis use, as well as 38% feeling tired, 36% having sleep disturbances, 25% feeling down, hopeless or depressed. The study also found that 24% were having difficulty with concentration, 43% were feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge, 36% felt that they were unable to stop worrying, and 35% found it hard to relax.
Meanwhile, Forbes provided data, released in December 2020, from the U.S Census Bureau which found that 42% of people reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. The significance of these findings is that the results on the same matter for 2019 found that only 11% had those same symptoms. This means that the symptoms of anxiety and depression are increasing as we move further along into the pandemic.
Although psychedelics are federally illegal, there are an increasing amount of studies being released that provide evidence of psychedelics’ potential to act as treatment for mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers were interested in how previous use of psychedelics affected the mental health of individuals during April to July of 2020—the months of the first phase of strict lockdown.
The researchers from the Netherlands, Spain, and Brazil explained that, “Despite being an effective measure, the confinement and the associated social isolation create a stressful, potentially lengthy situations that has been proven to have several psychological consequences” in reference to the first phase of strict lockdown.
The team made use of an online survey which inquired about “sociodemographic factors, activities, and lifestyle factors during confinement, as well as health and mental health related factors”. On top of that, the respondents were asked about their previous use of psychedelics including psilocybin (A.K.A Magic Mushrooms or Shrooms), LSD, MDMA, etc. The respondents also had to categorize themselves as either a regular user, occasional user, or non-user.
Included in their methodology is the use of psychometric tests in order to assess “psychological distress, peritraumatic distress, social support, psychopathological distress and personality”. Psychometrics is a branch in clinical psychology. Essentially, it is the technique of mental measurements, and uses quantitative devices to assess psychological trends.
The team goes on to explain that “linear regressions were performed with psychedelic drug users as the independent variable and psychometric factors as the outcomes, while correcting for age, gender, language, religion, spirituality, and use of non-psychedelic drugs”.
The study included 2,974 English, Portuguese and Spanish speakers where 497 identified as regular users, 606 as occasional users and 1,968 as non-users. Of the respondents, the average age was 36-years-old with 70% of the respondents being female.
The results of their efforts found that those who identified as regular users reported “less psychological distress, less peritraumatic stress, and more social support”. They also noted that those same respondents also scored higher on the “novelty-seeking and self-transcendence scales”, but lower on cooperativeness.
They found that regular users of psychedelic drugs had less psychological stress and some personality differences in comparison to the other two groups. The study suggests that psychedelic consumption may have had a protective impact on the consumers, and that people who possess certain traits are more likely to frequent psychedelics.
The authors of the study note that the majority of the sample (90.4%) did not experience any COVID-19 related symptoms and that 4.7% reported having lost a relative to the coronavirus. They also found that regular psychedelic consumers followed “fewer of the anti-contagion tips”, but that “they reported higher levels of well-being and lower discomfort during the confinement period as compared to the never users of psychedelic drugs”.
With regard to the association between psychedelic use and the psychometric measures, 49% of the regular users reported that psychedelic use led to having better means of managing to cope with isolation, or rather confinement. Unrelated to stress and anxiety, but interesting nonetheless, the regular users reported being “in favor of changes regarding the economic system, or the predominant values of our society”.
While discussing the study, the researchers explained that they were able to comprehensively assess the association between psychedelics and psychometric measures because of the “unique situation of being confined at home due to COVID-19” regardless of the country of residence. The team explains that they “were interested in assessing the potential psychological consequences of such an uncommon social scenario and, more specifically, the possible role that lifetime use of psychedelic drugs might play in dealing with those consequences, given the recently reported clinical and community benefits associated with psychedelic drugs”.
The team concluded by explaining that their sample clearly showed signs of the coronavirus impacting people negatively, as well as that long-term psychedelic use is associated with better general health outcomes and less stress. Like most studies, the team also stated that more research should be done, especially regarding the different roles in which psychedelics can impact this pandemic, or a future one.
It should be noted that the nature of the study means that there could have also been other factors that led to their findings, such as personality traits. Even if there was another factor contributing to the outcomes of this study, the results are significant enough, since regular psychedelic use was a common constant in assessment results which were more positive. Besides, it is no secret that psychedelics are effective against certain conditions, including the likes of stress, anxiety, and PTSD.
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