An estimated 32 million American residents in 2010 reported the lifetime use of psychedelics, including lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline and peyote. Unlike other drugs, psychedelics often evoke the awareness of subconscious thoughts and feelings, such as repressed memories, feelings about life circumstances, fantasies or deep fears. People high on psychedelics experience hallucinations, vivid images and intense sounds.
Scientists have been actively exploring the role of LSD and related psychedelics in treating mental illnesses by understanding the human consciousness and psychopathology. However, they have so far unable to fully comprehend the impacts of such drugs on the human brain. Some of the earlier brain imaging studies have highlighted the enormous effects of psychedelics on neural activity. This has led to an intense debate on the therapeutic benefits of such drugs. However, there are comparatively limited number of studies to understand the way psychedelics affect the human brain.
One of the studies tried to understand the effects of LSD on the human brain using connectome-harmonic decomposition. It found that the drug plays a vital role in altering the energy and power of individual harmonic brain states in a frequency-selective manner. It also enables repertoire expansion by the reorganization of the brain dynamics and creating a new type of order of the brain. However, it also strikes a balance between order and disorder. This study proved an important step in the direction of understanding the effect of LSD and other psychedelics.
Other findings related to LSD
It was in 1950s when for the first time, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested LSD and experienced its mind-expanding effects. In his book, Mystic Chemist, Hoffman has explained how LSD has vast potential as a psychiatric tool. However, it has been widely demonstrated that LSD is not a suitable medication, as it aggravates pre-existing moods. As per the book, though LSD may not be harmful, it does not help the humanity evolve in any way. Another study revealed that psilocybin diminishes activity in key brain regions and networks implicated in hallucinogen actions.
The altered states of consciousness produced by psychedelic drugs are very similar to dreams, according to new research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Two scientists from Departamento de Física, Argentina, and Brain and Spine Institute, Paris, France, investigated the semantic similarity between subjective reports of psychoactive substances and reports of high/low lucidity dreams. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed that LSD caused brain activity to become less coordinated in regions that make up what is called the default mode network. The size of the effect was correlated with participants’ ratings of their own ego dissolution, suggesting that this network underlies a stable sense of self. Another imaging type, magnetoencephalography (MEG), showed that the rhythm of alpha brainwaves more prominent in human are weakened under LSD. The results in surging high lucidity dreams.
Moreover, another research established that LSD increases the “cognitive bizarreness” of mental imagery (a characteristic quality of dream content). The action of serotonergic psychedelics is based on their high affinity for serotonin 5-HT2A receptors and is categorized by noticeable changes in consciousness that comprise simple and complex visual imagery, alterations in the sense of self and in the relationship between the body and the environment, disinhibited emotions, and modifications in cognition and thought processes.
Recovery road map
Despite the therapeutic effects of psychedelics, it is essential to know the effects of these drugs to avoid any adverse results. The persistent use of psychedelics inflicts anxiety, depression, irritability and other changes. People are also likely to experience nightmares and hallucinations throughout their life, which increases the risk of developing mental disorders.
While it is equally important to have family and friends as your safety net, sometimes professional care can boost the entire recovery process. Researchers believe that continued medical research into psychedelic drugs could benefit mentally ill patients who have not yet shown improvement with the currently available treatments.
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