The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement in 2019 stating that we are currently experiencing an ongoing mental health crisis. This has resulted in a demand for further understanding into mental health and thus has enabled for a rediscovered interest in the use of psychedelics as ‘potential psychiatric treatments’ and considered as ‘game-changing’ in the treatment of mental health.
In recent years, there appears to have been a more ‘open-mindedness’ towards psychedelic drugs such as LSD and mushrooms by the clinical community. Previous research attitudes have been sceptical towards psychedelics due to their ongoing association and popularity for recreational use which has lead to a heavy stigmatisation attached to them within the medical field.
As a result, online microdosing communities have grown to the tens of thousands, speaking to a social need for scientific study to inform the public about the effects of microdosing. Microdosing research with Lysergamides is very popular in research laboratories around the world, with the most well-known lysergamide being LSD. If the scientific studies emerge to support the research, microdosing with LSD could be just like any other prescription drug experience: useful for some, less so for others, and perhaps best prescribed as a temporary treatment.
This is because of the common conception of psychedelics being linked directly to the hippie movement but the hard work of research at institutions such as Imperial College London have enabled for a reconsideration of the use of psychedelics in mental health treatment, with arguments being as strong as them having the ability to ‘reset the brain’.
So how do psychedelics work in treating mental health? Basically, the biology behind it is that the primary target for psychedelics is the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor, which is responsible for the excretion of serotonin into the brain. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, and low levels of serotonin are what can be associated with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This is why the use of psychedelics like LSD have been reviewed to investigate their treatments with mood disorders because of the way they react with hormones in the brain.
At Unmasked, we are not promoting the use of psychedelics, we are purely highlighting the new research that is being done to address the option of psychedelic use in treating mental health. As WHO highlighted in 2019, because we are in a mental health crisis and the current services are exhausted with lengthy waiting lists or side effects from taking certain SSRI medication (Nawrat, 2020), it is increasingly important that we research the alternative avenues for treatment that are out there and could possibly help.
Unmasked is a charitable organisation based in Halifax, West Yorkshire and the work done by Unmasked is recognised as being invaluable to the individuals and wider communities that use it. We pride ourselves on providing a range of services that is based on unmasking the stigma that still currently surrounds mental health. This is done through our app ‘Unmasked’ available on the App Store and peer support hubs that are facilitated entirely on the concept of providing opportunities for communities to be able to unite together and support each other.
Since November 2020, Unmasked has become the full circle of support and now offers a low cost counselling service to provide support at a professional compacity. All who volunteer here have a dedicated attitude to promoting the importance of speaking about mental wellbeing and want to be able to continue doing all they can to achieve the goal of offering ongoing support and reducing the stigma associated with mental health.
Grace Farrar is the coordinator for Unmasked.