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COLUMN: Psychedelic drug safety



Our general understanding of traditional psychedelic drugs can be biased.

Because of this, it’s important to correct our misconceptions about them. Psychedelic drugs can be extremely useful for treating addiction, anxiety and 
depression.

Even when used for recreation, they are safer alternatives to alcohol and tobacco, according to the nine-category matrix of harm developed by Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London.

When I say “traditional psychedelics,” I’m referring to drugs like LSD, psilocybin, DMT and mescaline.

Many of the plant-based psychedelic drugs fall within this category.

Three of the most common misconceptions are that psychedelics can cause addiction, mental breakdowns and bodily harm.

None of these psychedelic drugs can cause physical addiction or 
dependence.

This is partly because they do not cause euphoria by acting on opioid receptors, and they do not stimulate the reward pathway like drugs that are known to be 
addictive.

Psychedelics are also unlikely to cause psychological addiction.

Most will cause a very rapid tolerance buildup that generally prevents psychedelic binging. Additionally, overuse will cause the experiences to lose novelty.

Psychedelic trips are often highly intense, pun intended, to a point where few users would want to repeat the experience so soon.

I have made my own observations of psychedelic drugs from online drug forums such as Psychonaut and Shoomery.

It seems as though even if a psychedelic drug user decided to trip as often as possible, many reach a point where their use begins to plateau and slowly decline.

The second misconception is psychedelic drugs can cause mental disorders.

A 2013 survey of 130,152 people in the Public Library of Science found psychedelic drug use has no correlation with an increased chance of mental illness.

In fact, psychedelic drug users are less likely to be diagnosed with one.

The horror stories some people recount are often urban legends.

Nevertheless, it is possible for psychedelics to exacerbate existing mental conditions.

It is also possible to unveil an underlying mental issue, but they don’t actually cause the disorders.

Finally, many studies have shown extremely low toxicity for psychedelic drugs.

For example, the lethal doses of LSD and psilocybin are about 1,000 times their recreational doses.

In comparison, alcohol has a lethal dose only 10 times its effective dose, according to the American 
Scientist.

“Psychedelics are different than most other recreational drugs. Experts agree that psychedelics do not cause addiction or compulsive use, and they are not known to harm the brain,” according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“Psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society.”

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