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.
The researchers said recent brain imaging studies show that psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine and psilocybin — the psychoactive component in recreational drugs known as magic mushrooms — act on the brain in ways that could help reduce symptoms of various psychiatric disorders.
The drugs could be used as a kind of catalyst, the scientists said, helping patients to alter their perception of problems or pain levels and then work with behavioral therapists or psychotherapists to tackle them in new ways.
Vollenweider and his colleague Michael Kometer, who also worked on the paper, said evidence from previous studies suggests such drugs might help ease mental health problems by acting on the brain circuits and neurotransmitter systems that are known to be altered in people with depression and anxiety.
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.
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