New research sheds light on the mechanisms behind the transformative medicinal properties of psychedelics for mental health.
New research sheds light on the mechanisms connecting psychedelic use to improved mental wellbeing, PsyPost reports.
Published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, the new study has found evidence that psychedelics improve mental health by increasing spirituality, which in turn, leads to better emotional regulation. Further, improved emotion regulation is associated with a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety and disordered eating.
Humans have been using psychedelics, such as psilocybin and ayahuasca, in spiritual ceremonies since time immemorial. Modern interest in these mind-altering substances has resurfaced amidst mounting evidence of their medicinal value. Nevertheless, the mechanism that lies behind these therapeutics remain largely a mystery.
Study authors, Adele Lafrance and her colleagues, found that enhanced spirituality and improvements in emotion regulation are key side effects of psychedelic use. Research was conducted by distributing questionnaires among 159 participants between the ages of 18 and 69. The respondents reported their lifetime psychedelic use and rated their spirituality, as well as completing measures ascertaining difficulties in emotion regulation, depression, anxiety and disordered eating.
The vast majority (96%) of respondents reported using psilocybin in the past, with a third of participants reporting the use of more than one type of psychedelic. Researchers found that more frequent psychedelic users reported greater spirituality. Consequently, those with greater spirituality experienced less difficulties with emotional regulation, and thus, improved mental health.
“A focus on spirituality appears to be a powerful catalyst for the transformation of emotion processing difficulties which are thought to underlie most emotion-based disorders, including mood, anxiety, and eating disorders,” the authors write of their findings. “It can be useful for clinicians to support their clients in cultivating a greater connection with self, others, the natural world or with spirit, and/or greater involvement with ceremonial or religious practices,” they conclude.
These findings contribute to the existing body of evidence which indicates the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic substances. However, because the study was cross-sectional, it is impossible to infer causality between variables.
The study authors suggest that longitudinal and controlled trials should be carried out to strengthen their results and help establish causality. Additionally, the researchers note that it is imperative for future studies to include diverse samples, which increase the representation of Black and Indigenous communities, from whence traditions of psychedelic use originate.
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