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Psychedelic therapy re-emerging as promising treatment for anxiety, PTSD and addiction

OTTAWA, Sept. 8, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Renewed medical interest in the use of psychedelic drugs for anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction has resulted in small research studies that show some success with the controlled use of these drugs, according to an analysis published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Psychedelic drugs are substances that have a strong effect on one's "conscious experience," such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, found in "magic mushrooms," dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

"The re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical doors and therapeutic doors long closed," writes Dr. Evan Wood, Professor of Medicine and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and co-authors Drs. Kenneth W. Tupper, Richard Yensen, and Matthew W. Johnson.

One small randomized controlled trial indicates that LSD-assisted psychotherapy might help reduce anxiety from terminal illness. Another small study, in which the active molecule in "magic mushrooms" was used as part of therapy for alcohol addiction, shows a significant reduction in the number of days alcohol was used as well as in the amount. A small US study of the drug MDMA shows a reduction in PTSD symptoms in people with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

"Continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments," write the authors.

Learnings from research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, in which there were challenges to conducting studies and ethical breaches, is helping inform current research in the field.

"Although methodological and political challenges remain to some degree, recent clinical studies have shown that studies on psychedelics as therapeutic agents can conform to the rigorous scientific, ethical and safety standards expected of contemporary medical research," the authors write.

Canadian researchers are leading studies that are looking at psychedelic drugs as treatment for addiction and PTSD.

The authors emphasize that the studies included in their analysis are small and the results preliminary; further research is needed to determine if there is widespread clinical application.

CMAJ Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/cmajpodcasts/141124-ana

About the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

CMAJ is a peer-reviewed general medical journal that publishes original clinical research, commentaries, analyses, and reviews of clinical topics, health news, clinical practice updates and thought-provoking editorials. CMAJ has had substantial impact on health care and the practice of medicine in Canada and around the world.

About the Urban Health Research Initiative

The Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI) is an innovative research program based on a network of studies developed to help identify and understand the many factors that affect the health of urban populations. Focusing primarily on issues relating to substance abuse, infectious diseases, the urban environment and homelessness, UHRI aims to improve the health of individuals and communities through research to inform policy. Founded in 2007, UHRI's team consists of researchers, epidemiologists, statisticians, ethnographers, research assistants, research coordinators, registered nurses, knowledge translations coordinators, students, and support staff.

About the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility and is internationally recognized as an innovative world leader in combating HIV/AIDS and related diseases. BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE works in close collaboration with key provincial stakeholders, including government, health authorities, health care providers, academics from other institutions, and the community to decrease the health burden of HIV and AIDS. By developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related illnesses, the BC-CfE helps improve the health of British Columbians.

For additional information or to request interviews, please contact: Diane Pépin, Communications Coordinator, BC-CfE 604-653-5673 Email: dpepin@cfenet.ubc.ca

General media contact: Kim Barnhardt, Communications, CMAJ, tel: 613-520-7116 x2224, kim.barnhardt@cmaj.ca@CMAJ_News

CONTACT: Diane Pepin, Communications Coordinator, BC-CfE 604-653-5673 Email: dpepin@cfenet.ubc.ca General media contact: Kim Barnhardt, Communications, CMAJ, tel: 613-520-7116 x2224, kim.barnhardt@cmaj.ca@CMAJ_NewsSource:B.C. Centre for Excellencein HIV/AIDS..