Context: Psychedelics are increasingly being explored in some countries as alternate therapy for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems.


• Psychedelics are drugs that induce states of altered perception, behaviour, consciousness and thought, often with increased awareness of the senses.
• So far, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Israel and a few states in the US(Oregon and Colorado) have allowed the use of psychedelics for medicinal use.
• The term ‘psychedelic’ comes from two Greek words denoting mind or soul and manifesting.
• It is a subset of psychotropic substances that can alter a person’s thoughts and perceptions and elicit intense hallucinations.
• The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, lists about 200 psychotropic substances under four schedules, with Schedule I substances having the most potential for abuse.
• The Convention does not specify which substances, or how many, are psychedelics.
• Examples of psychedelics: Psilocybin; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); 3,4-methylenedioxy-Nmethamphetamine (MDMA); ketamine and N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
• Most psychedelics work by increasing the availability of serotonin — a mood-stabilizing hormone.

 Categories of psychedelics: 

• Two broad categories: Classical and nonclassical, depending upon their mode of action.
• Classical psychedelics are thought to trigger hallucinations by activating a receptor called serotonin 5-HT, widely present in the human body, from the gastrointestinal tract to platelets to the nervous system.
• LSD, psilocybin and DMT are classical psychedelics; ketamine and MDMA are labelled nonclassical. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) versus psychedelics:

• Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — the most commonly used drugs to treat mental health problems such as depression and anxiety — also increase the levels of serotonin.
• However, psychedelics interact more strongly with the receptor, leading to faster action.
• SSRIs are thought to reduce limbic responsiveness (part of the brain involved in motivation, emotional expression, and memory) and cause emotional moderation or blunting.
• This contrasts with most psychedelics, which bring about emotional release. The emotional release, when combined with psychological support, is hypothesised to be therapeutically potent.
• Scientists believe these substances induce neuroplasticity — the capacity of the neurons and neural networks in the brain to rewire and change their behaviour in response to new stimulation.

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