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New Research Suggests Psychedelic Helplines Could Avert Possible Harms

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New research analyzing psychedelic use in nonclinical settings has found that creating psychedelic helplines could help alleviate the potential harms of recreational psychedelic use. Researchers behind the recent study were concerned with the lack of safety protocols for psychedelic use in nonclinical settings as recreational psychedelic use is on the rise among Americans.

Psychedelics have captured the scientific community and the mainstream public’s attention due to their potential mental health benefits. A growing body of research has revealed that psychedelics can treat a myriad of mental health conditions with few side effects and offer long-term relief to patients who didn’t respond positively to traditional treatments.

However, even though hallucinogenics are still illegal at the federal level and in most states, they have attracted a small community of users for decades. Now that scientific research has shown that psychedelics may have mental health benefits, even more people are using them outside of a clinical setting.

While some people have benefitted from incorporating psychedelics into their wellness routines, the risk of negative health outcomes is significant, especially for drugs such as ketamine, which can be fatal in high doses. In addition, although psychedelics such as psilocybin may not be as dangerous as ketamine, psychedelic abuse can cause side effects such as impaired muscle coordination (ataxia), dizziness and muscle weakness. Psychedelic abuse may also cause emotional and psychological issues, including anxiety, depression and poor motivation.

The researchers wanted to find ways to limit the risks associated with recreational psychedelic use, such as leveraging already existing peer support systems that provide support on matters such as mental health and harm reduction.

Mollie M. Pleet, a licensed psychologist as well as a social neuroscience and psychotherapy lab member and study author, said that she has spent the past few years as part of a team that helps people deal with emotional, spiritual and psychological issues arising from psychedelic use.

Pleet explained that this experience showed her firsthand just how powerful peer support can be at aiding people affected negatively by nonclinical psychedelic use. She and her team obtained confirmation from the Fireside Project, a nonprofit organization that runs a psychedelic helpline for people living in psychedelic states.

The team found that callers often experienced emotions such as anxiety, confusion and fear as well as being overwhelmed. The results showed that 27.4% of the callers reported having an underlying psychiatric condition and the majority of callers (77%) said they had most of their psychedelic experiences at home by themselves.

Researchers noted that psychedelic helplines could be especially helpful to this majority who use psychedelic at home with no one around to support them during the experience. They concluded that psychedelic helplines showed promise in helping callers under the influence or with a history of psychedelic use to manage emotional challenges and safety issues.

That being said, it is noteworthy that a vast majority of startups that are developing psychedelics formulation, such as Field Trip Health Ltd. (OTC: FTHWF) (TSX: FTHW), are looking to avail those treatments through a clinical setting rather than investing in the development of recreational or self-prescribed products. The intention is to limit the potential risks that these potent substances could have for users.

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