“Notably, among people with a history of childhood depressive episodes (before age 18 years), psychedelic use was associated with a lower likelihood of suicidal thoughts and suicidal plan,” researchers Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Suzanne Krebs conclude in their study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in March.
The researchers, who are based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, analyzed the US National Health Survey data from 2008 to 2011, looking at survey data from 130,000 randomly selected adults, including nearly 20,000 psychedelic drug users.
In their conclusion, the authors argue that the lower suicide risk may be a direct result of the experiences gained through psychedelic use.
“It is well documented that psychedelics elicit spiritual experiences,” the researchers argue. “Indeed, long-term psychological benefits have been reported in several clinical trials of LSD.”
They cite a 1971 study which found that “About half of the total sample felt they had achieved more understanding and acceptance of themselves and a broader tolerance of the view points of others via the LSD experience”.
The researchers concede however that the lower suicide risk could also result from self-selection. LSD-use might be more common among those who enjoy good mental health, as those who know themselves to be psychologically fragile tend to be wary of the drug.
The analysis confirmed the findings of a previous study by the same authors looking at the 2001-2004 data, which concluded that there was no association between psychedelic use and later mental health issues.
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However, the US survey data from 2008 included responses to additional questions on suicidal thoughts and childhood depressive episodes, allowing them to further map potential benefits of psychedelic use.
"In general, use of psychedelics does not appear to be particularly dangerous when compared to other activities considered to have acceptable safety," the authors conclude.
In particular, both studies appear to indicate that acid ‘flashbacks’ in which LSD users suffer sudden hallucinations many years after taking a dose, appear to be a myth.