According to the CDC, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about committing suicide in 2020. The CDC explains that there is one suicide about every 11 minutes, which would be a lot higher if all of those considering suicide actually followed through.
As for psychological distress, it was found that between 34% and 43% experience significant psychological distress depending on the time of year. Interestingly, new research found that MDMA and psilocybin can reduce the odds of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.
While psychological distress and suicidal thoughts may not seem as serious as suicide itself, alleviating the risk of both can significantly reduce the number of suicides. The CDC explains that of the 12.2 million Americans who have thought about suicide, 3.2 million of them made a plan and 1.2 million went through with the plan—whether successfully or otherwise.
Psychological distress can be seen as a broad term for referring to “non-specific symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression,” while suicidal thoughts can be defined as thoughts about taking one’s own life through self-injury and can also include abstract thoughts about how people would be better off without you in the world.
Some people explain their suicidal feelings or psychological distress as follows:
As you can see, psychological distress and suicidal distress are serious, complex symptoms. Psychological distress and suicidal attempts lead to suicide, which is one of the world’s leading causes of death.
The study conducted by Grant Jones and Matthew Nock was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology with the aim of assessing whether there is a relationship between MDMA and psilocybin and psychological distress/suicide risk. The researchers begin by explaining that the number of suicides in America continues to increase despite an increase in people getting assistance for psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, which furthers the need for finding potentially more effective means of reducing the suicides and addressing the root (what causes psychological distress and suicidal thoughts).
The researchers go on to link psychological distress and suicidal thoughts to experiences of violence resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Considering this connection and the fact that MDMA and ecstasy have previously shown promise as a treatment for those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD, its assistance in lowering the odds of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts is pretty logical. However, between MDMA and psilocybin, the latter has received the most attention for its therapeutic potential despite the fact that both appear to have promise as therapeutics.
In order to better understand the relationship between conventional recreational drugs and psychological dress/suicidal thoughts, the team of researchers analyzed lifetime use of the following drugs: MDMA/ecstasy, classic psychedelics (psilocybin, LSD, peyote, etc.), and more harmful and man-made drugs such as cocaine, heroin, PCP, etc.). The team also included inhalants, pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, etc.
The team included analyses for outcome variables that measure psychological distress, which included indicators of present and past psychological distress and suicide ideation, planning, and attempts. Aspects that were included in understanding psychological distress included feeling nervous, hopeless, restless, or fidgety, as well as feeling “so sad or depressed that nothing could cheer you up, feeling that everything was an effect and feeling down on yourself, no good, or worthless.”
Using all the existing information and that which they collected themselves, the researchers were able to confirm their hypothesis about lifetime use of MDMA/ecstasy, associating it with “decreased odds of past year suicidal thinking and planning.” Psilocybin was associated with “decreased odds of past month psychological distress and past year suicidal thinking” as well as being “marginally associated with decreased odds of past year suicidal planning and a past year suicide attempt.”
Despite the fact that there is growing evidence to support the efficacy of alternative substances for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs), the researchers state that there is still a need for further investigation—especially since they cannot “infer causality from this observational study.” While still lacking the information for definitive conclusions regarding whether MDMA/ecstasy and psilocybin can effectively reduce psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, there is definitely enough to be indicative of its potential.
Persons dealing with psychological distress and being plagued by suicidal thoughts should responsibly consider the use of such alternative substances under the guidance of a professional. Remember that these substances, while anecdotally reported as effective, are largely illegal and that self-medicating can be dangerous, leading to increased adverse effects. We recommend that you consider a treatment center that is trained, authorized, and licensed to use those substances as part of treatment.
Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances such as psychedelics but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.
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