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Research Reveals Lower Odds of Psychological Distress With Psychedelic Use

April 25, 2022 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Research Reveals Lower Odds of Psychological Distress With Psychedelic Use

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.

About Psychological Distress and Suicidal Thoughts

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:

  • “I couldn’t see past the pain. It was a different reality for me. I only knew I wanted the pain to stop, the anguish to go away.” – Anonymous
  • “I spend a lot of time wondering what dying feels like. What dying sounds like. If I’ll burst like those notes, let out my last cries of pain, and then go silent forever. Or maybe I’ll turn into a shadowy static that’s barely there, if you just listen hard enough.” – Jasmine Warga
  • “A depressed person is selfish because her self, the very core of who she is, will not leave her alone, and she can no more stop thinking about this self and how to escape it than a prisoner held captive by a sadistic serial killer can forget about the person who comes in to torture her everyday. Her body is brutalized by her mind. It hurts to breathe, eat, walk, think. The gross maneuverings of her limbs are so overwhelming, so wearying, that the fine muscle movements or quickness of wit necessary to write, to actually say something, are completely out of the question.” – Stacy Pershall
  • “Most of the time, I do not want to die. But I would like to have the means of death within my grasp. I want to feel the luxury of choice, to know the answer to ‘How do I bear this?’ need not always be ‘Endure.’” – Anna Lyndsey
  • “I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.” – Samantha Shannon

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.

MDMA and Psilocybin

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).

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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.”

Psychedelics Show Promise

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.

Post Your Comments

Bryce says:

April 25, 2022 at 8:08 am

I would really like some info on how to become a part of the study. This past October I had a very bad motorcycle accident and besides physical injuries I suffered I also suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. I suffer from severe depression as a result of it and I have pleaded with my doctors for help and all is done us new pills for me to take and low and behold the medicine I was given to help that made it worse to the point I actually attempted….. Depression with a TBI is seriously no laughing matter and don’t know what to do so any information at all is highly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Chane Leigh says:

April 26, 2022 at 9:38 am

Hi Bryce,
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and helping us strengthen the importance of studies such as these. Unfortunately, we are unable to advise you on to join this specific study as they have already recruited their participants. However, should we come across one, we will be share to it with you. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the legal psychedelic thereapy centers listed in this article: https://www.veriheal.com/blog/a-quick-guide-to-the-many-types-of-psychedelic-therapy/

I wish you well Bryce.

michael says:

May 6, 2022 at 7:55 pm

Very well detailed info on the use of psychedelics as a possible tool for treating suicide and other psychological issues
many folks are dealing with. I personally have found “shrooms” to be a great help to stabilize myself when feeling on the edge.