Never could I have imagined a point in science where the hallucinogenic drug LSD could actually aid in the treatment of some psychiatric disorders. At first glance, one may assume this to be a positive thing. Using a recreational drug as a means to study the effects on the human brain and analyze the correlations between the brain of a user on drugs and the brain of a psych patient. But therein lies the danger of it all. Why ingest a drug that will induce you to a state similar to psychosis. These people may already need to be in a mental hospital for the mere thought of it. Researchers from The University of Zurich have new evidence that the serotonin 2A receptor activated when using LSD could also be responsible for the mechanisms that are present for some psychological disorders.
To date, current forms of therapy for disorders such as depression or schizophrenia are limited and are only able to enact a slight change in behavior. Most patients do not interact with the medication well and do not wish to take it. One common side effect of mental illness is a feeling of inflated or weakened sense of self and this can be replicated through the use of LSD.
In this study, participants were given either a placebo, LSD, or LSD in combination with ketanserin, a drug used when trying to study the serotonin system. What they found was that when patients took LSD it affected their perceptions of their sense of self and others around them. In terms of a patient with schizophrenia, this could be a positive thing as it could potentially diminish their feelings of uneasiness towards familiar or unfamiliar faces. The brain regions normally active in separating yourself and others are less active under the influence of LSD. In those that also took ketanserin, this less active stage was effectively blocked.
The ultimate finding from this study was that the serotonin receptor does play a key role within this mechanism as seen when the mechanism was blocked in the presence of ketanserin. The second finding was that there is a correlation between sense of self and the way you socially interact based upon that initial reading of your sense of self. By better understanding this relationship, it could enable researchers to undercover better methods for the treatment of mental and psychotic disorders through the activation or inhibition of the serotonin 2A pathway.
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