After nearly 50 years of misinformation, it can be quite difficult to break a deep-seeded fear of tripping your way to insanity. Luckily we live in a more enlightened time, where simple google searches and declassified government documents shed light on the real history of psychedelics. For those of us who like the hard numbers, experts are devoting their scientific know how to the field of psychedelic science.
These pioneering individuals are producing the hard data that will one day allow the world to recognize the true potential of these seemingly mystical compounds and a new study presented at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland California, suggests that psychedelics may reduce suicidality.
The study presented by Elena Argento, of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, examined the effects of psychoactive substances in sex workers in Vancouver, British Columbia and discovered some promising results.
Her research draws on information provided by the four-year longitudinal study An Evaluation of Sex Workers’ Health Access (AESHA) which began in 2010 and surveyed nearly 800 female sex workers about their mental health and substance use.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. According to a 2012 study from the World Health Organization, suicide accounts for 1 million deaths every year.
Those in the sex industry are, particularly at risk. Sex workers, according to Argento, experience a higher risk of suicide due to several factors including the stigma around their work and the violence that sometimes comes with it. In addition to this, the mental health needs of sex workers also receive a lower level of attention from researchers due to the nature of their work. As a result, very little data is collected to support and articulate their needs to those who are in a position to provide it. This is why Argento chose to fill that gap.
Participants in her study underwent repeated checkups over a 56-month period. Of the 290 sex workers, the study drew on for its analysis 11% reported suicidality during follow-up visits.
Those who were found to be lifelong consumers of psychedelics reported a 60 percent lesser rate of suicidality. Other substances like methamphetamine were among the factors which most accurately predicted suicidality.
While the results of the study were promising, Argento insists that this is the first step. Her study was purely observational, meaning that she did not administer the substances herself in a controlled setting. Still, the positive results of independent access to psychedelic use suggest that therapy–assisted–administration of these substances could improve their effectiveness.
In multiple studies conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Sciences (MAPS) and the Beckley Foundation, the two organizations responsible for the conference, psychedelics from LSD to magic mushrooms have been found to have positive effects on depression when administered in conjunction with therapy. Most recently a MAPS-sponsored study obtained breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA for MDMA assisted therapy as a treatment for PTSD.