Psilocybin may become the next medication-assisted treatment.
The use of psychoactive substances as a form of therapy has a long history, dating back to ancient rituals. A recent development in the mental health field reflects a long-standing cultural tradition of using psychoactive substances as a form of therapy. Psychedelic drugs like ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin are again receiving attention due to growing interest in and research into their potential use in the treatment of mental health conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychedelic-assisted therapy may even one day be insurable.
Cultures worldwide have used psychedelics for thousands of years in religious rituals and other spiritual practices. The knowledge of and use of these substances have suffered due to the U.S. government’s increasingly onerous regulations on psychoactive drugs. A steady increase in scientific research into the effectiveness of psychedelics for treatments has resulted from recent changes in attitudes toward some psychoactive substances, which have allowed a re-examination of their potential benefits for medical purposes.
New data suggests that psychedelics may alter the chemical composition of the brain in a way that relieves symptoms of depression and PTSD without causing long-term side effects. This intriguing evidence raises the possibility that psychedelics and other mental health treatments, including those for people suffering from psychiatric conditions, may hold promise for them and for existing medical therapies.
With voters in several states passing laws legalizing the medical use of psychedelics like ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin, recent developments in the U.S. are pushing the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy into mainstream culture. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for recreational use. Perhaps psychedelics will be decriminalized in the Golden State, the Green Mountain State, and the Aloha State. Following Nevada’s lead, Colorado has legalized psilocybin for use in state-approved facilities.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated MDMA-assisted therapy as a “breakthrough therapy.” This designation indicates that the federal government is taking steps to make these treatments more widely available. To enable insurance companies to cover these therapies, the U.S. Veterans Administration is researching the effectiveness of psychedelic-assisted therapies for conditions like depression and PTSD.
Treatment plans can frequently cost several thousand or even ten thousand dollars. Recent developments have seen businesses in some sectors set a lower bar for coverage of psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions. HIF will be the first Australian health fund to cover clinically proven psychedelics. MAPS advocates for FDA approval of MDMA-assisted therapies and insurance coverage. MAPS consultant Elliot Marseille says psychedelic-assisted treatments can save insurers $39.5 million to $46.7 million per 1,000 patients over 10 years.
A potential shift in attitudes toward psychedelics has coincided with a change in how people view mental health problems, in general. Psychedelics may hold the potential to provide much-needed relief to those suffering from mental health conditions. Increasing numbers of people have become
aware of the need to prioritize mental health. We may experience a significant shift in how we approach mental illness on a systemic level. Advocates continue to re-imagine healthcare as an approachable and comprehensive procedure that addresses root causes rather than treating symptoms. Ultimately, this change offers a clear path forward in the nation’s fight against mental health crises.