London: Mind-altering drugs like LSD, ketamine or magic mushrooms could be combined with psychotherapy to treat people suffering from depression, compulsive disorders or chronic pain, Swiss scientists suggested on Wednesday. Research into the effects of psychedelics, used in the past in psychiatry, has been restricted in recent decades because of the negative connotations of drugs, but the scientists said more studies into their clinical potential were now justified.
But if doctors were to use them to treat psychiatric patients in future, it would be important to keep doses of the drugs low, and ensure they were given over a relatively short time period in combination with therapy sessions, they said. "The idea is that it would be very limited, maybe several sessions over a few months, not a long-term thing like other types of medication," Vollenweider said in a phone interview. A small study published by U.S. scientists this month found that an infusion of ketamine -- an anaesthetic used legally in both human and veterinary medicine, but also abused by people who use it recreationally -- can lift the mood within minutes in patients with severe bipolar depression. Mental illnesses such as depression are a growing health problem around the world and Vollenweider and Kometer said many patients with severe or chronic psychiatric problems fail to respond to medicines like the widely-prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Prozac or Paxil. "These are serious, debilitating, life-shortening illnesses, and as the currently available treatments have high failure rates, psychedelics might offer alternative treatment strategies that could improve the well-being of patients and the associated economic burden on patients and society," they wrote. Bureau Report
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