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How These 4 Illegal Drugs Are Treating Mental Illness

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For many, antidepressants are a way of life—both essential to normal human functioning and still not quite good enough. But, a new wave of research suggests that psychedelic drugs, unlike traditional antidepressants, may be able to provide long-lasting relief quickly for those dealing with some of our most common mental illnesses.

For patients looking at a lifetime's worth of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) and the side effects that come with them, a one-and-done session with LSD may seem pretty appealing. But, without doctors able to prescribe these substances, people are turning to illegal means to self-medicate, creating a possibly unsafe situation for the already mentally ill.

Cam, a 21-year-old chemical analyst from Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, has tried seemingly every medication under the sun to ease his anxiety and bipolar disorder: Lithium, Zopiclone, Citalopram, Ativan, Clonazepam, Seroquel, Resperidone, and Valium, just to name a few. But, he says all of them made him feel withdrawn, hollow, and “meh.”

Nothing helped quite like lysergic acid diethylamide—LSD. After trying it recreationally at age 16, Cam says he now self-medicates with LSD every 10 months or so when his anxiety becomes too much. "I had never been able to delve deeper into my own psyche than with the assistance of LSD," he says. "I was able to come to terms with the overly-high expectations I had set for myself...and accepted that they were more to please my family [than] myself. And, that my family only wanted my happiness anyway."

Stories like Cam's have been capturing the attention of researchers. Now, scientists are beginning to pick up where they left off when the restrictive 1970 Controlled Substances Act and the other regulations that followed began to keep psychoactive substances out of the hands of scientists — and the rest of us. Now, after spending decades on the shelves, these drugs are once again under the microscope. And, they're cracking minds wide open. [Head to Refinery29 for the full story!]

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