Psychedelics and mental health: the potential, risks and hype

There's a lot of excitement around using psychedelic drugs for mental health treatment. This hour, the potential, risks and hype around psychedelics and mental health care.

Listen 49:14
FILE - in this Aug. 3, 2007, file photo magic mushrooms (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

FILE - in this Aug. 3, 2007, file photo magic mushrooms (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

There’s a lot of excitement around the potential for psychedelics to treat a host of psychiatric problems. Drugs like ketamine, MDMA (often known as Molly or Ecstasy), and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic substance in magic mushrooms, are being studied to treat depression, anxiety, substance disorders and PTSD.

An increasing body of research shows these plant-based compounds have promise. For example, a recent small study found psilocybin dramatically reduced excessive drinking in people with alcohol use disorder. This is good news for people suffering from mood or substance use disorders who haven’t found relief through other therapeutics. There’s also a lot of hype surrounding these compounds, and many businesses trying to cash in on the psychedelic boom by offering therapy, products, retreats and more.

Today, a conversation about psychedelics in mental health treatment, their potential, and risks. We’ll talk about how these drugs affect the brain, altered states of consciousness and the stigma still associated with them.


David Yaden, Assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine working in the Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness research. He’s the co-author, with Andrew Newberg, of the new book, The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives. @existwell

Ron Millward, an Air Force combat veteran and Founder and President of Balanced Veterans Network, an organization that provides education and advocacy of alternative therapies for veterans and their families.

We recommend

The New York Times, The Promises and Perils of Psychedelic Health Care – “Many recreational drugs known for mind-altering trips are being studied to treat depression, substance use and other disorders. Here’s what you need to know.”

Wired, Is the Psychedelic Therapy Bubble About to Burst? – “A new paper argues that excitement has veered into misinformation—and scientists should be the ones to set things straight.”

Bloomberg, Get Ready for the Magic Mushroom Pill – “The medical benefits of psychedelic drugs have gone from Age of Aquarius punchline to solid science, but the startups racing to market might still be getting ahead of themselves.”


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