Study Suggests Bad Psychedelic Trips May Confer Mental Health Benefits Too

A new paper published in the “Journal of Affective Disorders” suggests that “bad” psychedelic trips may have a positive effect on mental health. The study represents the first research to delve deeper into the psychedelic experience and break it down into subtypes.

Psychedelics have been subject to increased scientific scrutiny in recent years after initial studies indicated that they may have mental health benefits. This research has revealed that psychedelic experiences can result in major neural changes that can impact mental health in positive ways.

With only a single or few doses of a psychedelic such as psilocybin, ketamine or MDMA followed by talk therapy, patients in clinical studies have reported experiencing a remarkable reduction in symptoms of conditions, including anxiety, PTSD and depression.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy occurs in three stages: preparation, dosing and integration.

The dosing stage involves taking a dose of a psychedelic in the presence of a trained therapist before going into a semi-guided psychedelic experience. Once this stage is over, patients talk with their therapists to help them integrate the insights they made during the experience into their lives.

Psychedelic experiences aren’t always pleasant, however. In an online poll of 1,993 people, 39% said their worst (bad) psychedelic trip was one of the most challenging experiences in their lives overall.

The recent study suggests that in some cases, these bad experiences can also be beneficial to the user. Researchers analyzed data collected from 985 participants who had used LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and 5-MeO-DMT in the past.

Via a questionnaire, the researchers asked the participants to evaluate how challenging, psychologically insightful or mystical their psychedelic experiences were. Challenging experiences were characterized by distressing or unsettling emotions and are what constituted bad psychedelic trips.

The scientists then cross-referenced these responses to self-reported patient evaluations of their anxiety and depression levels, psychological flexibility, and life satisfaction before and after taking a psychedelic. During their analysis, the researchers broke down the psychedelic experience into three subtypes: positive scoring, high scoring and low scoring.

Positive scoring represented high scores for insightful and mystical experiences coupled with low scores for challenging experiences. High scoring had high mystical and insightful scores with moderate challenging scores while low scoring had low to moderate insightful and mystical scores with low challenging scores. Positive-scoring patients seemed to see the greatest reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms despite experiencing challenging trips, suggesting that bad trips may not be 100% negative.

As companies such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) conduct additional research on a number of psychedelic compounds, more information is likely to become available about the full range of effects and the mechanisms through which psychedelics exert their influence on the mind and body.

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