Using psychedelics drugs such as LSD or psychoactive mushrooms doesn't increase the risk of developing mental health issues, new research has found.
That's the finding of an analysis of more than 135,000 people, of whom 19,000 reported using psychedelics.
Data collected in the U.S. National Health Survey from 2008 to 2011, that was analyzed for a relationship between the use of psychedelic drugs and psychological distress, anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, attempts or plans, yielded no evidence of a link, the researchers report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The analysis was done by neuroscientist Teri Krebs at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and clinical psychologist Pal-Orjan Johansen of EmmaSofia, a Norwegian nonprofit working to increase access to quality-controlled psychoactive drugs.
"Over 30 million U.S. adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems," says Johansen.
Alcohol and various other substances present much more risk, Krebs says. Also, unlike alcohol, psychedelics are not addictive, the researchers say.
In a previous study, researchers did not find any link between LSD and so-called "magic" mushrooms with brain damage.
"Drug experts consistently rank LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as much less harmful to the individual user and to society compared to alcohol and other controlled substances," Krebs points out.
Both LSD and the mushrooms are increasingly being seen as legitimate forms of therapy for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other diseases of the brain that can negatively affect the quality of life, experts note.
Although some other researchers have questioned the study's conclusions, many scientists seem willing to accept the notion of using psychedelic drugs in medical treatments -- but are not fully onboard.
"Are psychedelic class medications ready for prime-time? I don't think so," says Dr. Howard Forman, medical director of the Montefiore Medical Center's Addiction Consultation Service. But "might they become essential parts of the psychiatrist's toolbox in the future given proper oversight? That can't be ruled out," he says.
Despite the initial study results, Johansen acknowledges there is a possibility of psychedelics presenting negative effects on mental health for some types of individuals or certain groups of people.
Still, he says, "With these robust findings, it is difficult to see how prohibition of psychedelics can be justified as a public health measure."
Krebs adds she sees views prohibition as an issue of human rights.
"Concerns have been raised that the ban on use of psychedelics is a violation of the human rights to belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personality, and free-time and play," she says.