The Hidden Potential Behind Illegal Drugs For Severe Depression
It seems like new studies are being published all the time about the medicinal properties of marijuana, specifically one of its active ingredients, CBD. The taboo surrounding the drug is being broken down and new bills are constantly being passed to legalize it at the state level. But what about other illegal drugs? What we were taught to see as highly dangerous substances may actually open up the door to potential cures.
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the FDA approved an antidepressant derived from ketamine, an illegal drug known for its hallucinogenic and dissociative properties. Named Spravato, it is currently only available for those suffering from severe depression who haven’t responded to other treatments and must be administered at a doctor’s office, due to the hallucinogenic effects if taken in a large enough dose.
Where most oral antidepressants work by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood, Spravato is a nasal spray used in conjunction with an oral antidepressant that “targets glutamate, which is found to be in abundance in the brains of people with depression,” according to a Rolling Stone article. Because it works differently than other antidepressants currently available, Spravato has the potential to help countless people who suffer from depression and have found other treatments ineffective.
Exactly how well it will work still remains to be seen since it’s so new, but so far it seems to provide almost instantaneous relief for people experiencing sever bouts of depression. Who knew something seen as illicit and dangerous could actually help save lives?
But the story doesn’t end there. Other illegal drugs like LSD and psilocybin (aka Magic Mushrooms) also have the potential to treat depression when used in small doses. According to the Independent, these psychedelic drugs “have been shown to stimulate the growth of new branches and connections between brain cells which could help address conditions like depression and addiction.” I’m no scientist, but it seems as though these compounds have the ability to repair damaged nerves and cells, effectively treating these conditions with long lasting effects. One study even suggests that LSD, psilocybin, MDMA (the ingredient found in ecstasy), and DMT have equal or greater effects than ketamine when it comes to treating depression.
All of this is definitely not to say you should seek out these drugs to treat your maladies. These drugs still have the potential to be dangerous and thanks to mandatory minimum sentences, being caught with illegal drugs in your possession can be a one-way ticket to jail. But the research out there is growing and there’s clearly tons of potential for some major breakthroughs in healthcare. With the imminent legalization of marijuana and the FDA-approved Spravato, I like to think of these as “gateway drugs,” except in a good way.
Cover image via AARP