DAVIS (CBS13) – Could LSD or Ecstasy be the answer to treating depression, anxiety, and related disorders?

Scientists at UC Davis are looking into how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons. Once they determine the role the psychedelic drugs play, they can figure out if those drugs can help mood and anxiety disorders, including PTSD. If the answer is yes- researchers can then develop new drugs to treat those disorders.

The researchers treated rats with a single dose of DMT, which is a psychedelic compound found in an Amazonian herbal tea. The drug itself wore off after about an hour; however, the rewiring effects on the brain lasted 24 hours later. DMT treatment also enabled the rats to overcome a fear response to the memory of a mild electric shock. The scientists believe this could be beneficial when treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those tests show the drugs appear to mirror the effects produced by ketamine- an anesthetic. Other research has shown ketamine quickly produces antidepressant effects in those who are treatment-resistant.

The research also indicates a number of psychedelic drugs can actually increase the number of neuronal branches, the density of small protrusions on the branches, and the number of connections between neurons.

This way of thought isn’t new; however, it is the first time it’s been studied. The lead researcher, David Olson, an assistant professor in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, said: “People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis.”

The UC Davis research was published in the June 12th edition of “Cell Reports.”

LSD was first created in Switzerland in 1938 and was originally used to treat various psychiatric disorders. The chemical name for Ecstasy, MDMA, was first made in 1912 and was used to improve psychotherapy in the 70s. In 2017 the FDA gave MDMA a “breakthrough therapy” designation for PTSD and clinical trials are ongoing for its effectiveness and safety.

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