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LSD May Lower Mental Health Risks, Study

Update Date: Aug 20, 2013 06:45 AM EDT

Using LSD and other psychedelics may actually lower a person's risk of developing mental health problems, a new study suggests.

A new study of more than 130,000 participants found that the use of the use of LSD, magic mushrooms and peyote was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems. Instead, the findings published in the journal PLOS ONE linked the use of psychedelic drugs with fewer mental health problems.

The study used data from the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in which participants were asked about mental health treatment and symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions over the past year. The symptoms looked at the in the study were general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorder and psychosis.

"After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment," clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, said in a news release.

The latest findings revealed that a lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

Nonetheless, researchers said the latest findings do not definitively prove that psychedelics have a positive or negative effect on mental health.

"We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others," researchers wrote.

However, the noted that previous studies have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics.

"Other studies have found no evidence of health or social problems among people who had used psychedelics hundreds of times in legally-protected religious ceremonies," said Johansen.

"Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society," she added. "Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare."

"Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population," co-researcher Teri Krebs said in a statement.

"Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems," she concluded.

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