Could Psychedelic Drugs Protect Against Suicidal Thoughts?

woman sitting alone on benchWhen you contemplate LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, you’re more likely to picture a scene from Woodstock than a person pursuing better mental health. Research, though, is increasingly finding that some illegal drugs may improve mental health. recently reported on one recent study suggesting that cannabis might work better than antidepressants, for example. Now researchers are turning their attention toward “classic” psychedelic drugs such as LSD and mescaline. Previous research suggested that some psychedelics may improve overall mental health, and a University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health study suggests these drugs could also reduce the risk of suicide.

Psychedelic Drugs and Suicide

Researchers pulled data from 2008 to 2012 on 190,000 respondents to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey posed questions about drug use, mental health, suicidal thoughts, and similar issues.

Respondents who reported using a classic psychedelic drug at least once were less likely to report mental health issues in the previous month. Those who had used psychedelics also saw a decrease in suicidal thoughts and plans over the previous year.

Suicide claims about 30,000 lives each year, with more than 90% experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue. Still, despite increased mental health outreach and advances in mental health care, the suicide rate has not declined over the past 60 years. Researchers are in hot pursuit of potential treatments for suicidal thoughts, so any research that suggests a potential solution is promising.

It’s important to note, however, that this research is correlational. Researchers did not directly test whether psychedelics could prevent suicide, or whether people with suicidal feelings who take psychedelics experience a reduction in suicidal feelings. The study’s lead author, Peter S. Hendricks, PhD, emphasizes the need for more research into the potential benefits of these drugs.


Classic psychedelic use protective with regard to psychological distress and suicidality. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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  • Trent

    January 29th, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    I guess that I was sort of shocked when I read the title because I have always thought (assumed?) that those who used these kinds of drugs would be more prone to addiction issues, depression and therefore suicidal tendencies. Not that we would begin recommending this for those who do experience these thoughts, but perhaps there is something similar and legal, that could help with the brain chemistry in the same way?

  • Molly

    January 29th, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    Please… I thought that we were supposed to be trying to curb drug usage, not encouraging it

  • Christian

    January 29th, 2015 at 7:15 PM


    You’ve been a victim of a strategically designed propaganda campaign to convince the people of the US and the world that psychedelics are dangerous and addictive. LSD actually has a better cure rate for alcoholism than a treatment center does. Not only are psychedelics not addictive, but they actually CURE ADDICTIONS. Educate yourself, take a look at some of the new research, brain scans and anecdotal evidence, and then make a decision about “drugs.” By the way, it’s not prudent to group an infinite amount of mind altering substances under one label.

  • Psychedelic Frontier

    January 30th, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    Molly, I think what we’re “supposed” to be doing is to improving mental health. If a couple sessions of psychedelic-assisted therapy may significantly curb or even cure anxiety, depression, or addictions, I think we should pursue research that makes this treatment possible.

    Drug usage in itself is not bad — many successful medical treatments are only possible with the help of psychoactive compounds. The advantage of psychedelics is that they only need to be taken one or a couple times, in supervised therapeutic settings, to exert a profound effect. You can see how much this contrasts with leading psychiatric medications — namely antidepressents and anxiolytics — which often suppress symptoms rather than resolving their root issues, and must be taken every day.

  • Molly

    February 9th, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    I actually thought that what we are supposed to be doing on this site is learning from one another, and not being so accusatory. I understand that there are differing ways to go about treatment, but I have to say that I never expected one of these to encourage using substances that could have long term detrimental effects to someone.

  • D.Lee

    February 21st, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    I believe we ALL would do best to judge harshly nothing which has potential to bring about positive life changing effects to any single one of our fellow human beings. Keep in mind regardless if a DRUG which I will categorize by defination any consumable substance which may cause a otherwise unnaturaly enduced change in ones personal biological chemistry causing a enduced alteration within the being that has consumed the spe ific substance; all are DRUGS. Ignore please the fact that yes doctors make a “educated” guess on weather or not the foreign substance once consumed I to the body will have a favorable or unfavorable outcome. Would it not be just as ignorant to say that we should all never mind the warning labels and known possible side effects of these doctor prescribes brugs. No one human digest the exact same substance into ones body and has the exact same cloned experience from it. If that were the case there would be no such word as Allergic Reaction. Everyone and everyone’s body Handel’s what it takes in or comes in direct contact with differently than the next person. So weather or not the drug be illegal or not. We would all be fouls to adopt a point of view that ONLY socially identified illegal drugs are the addictive thus bad drugs for everyone. No, what may have a most life threatning result for one can be the life saving result for the next person. As with most things alliean to the biological make up of ones self. We must pay close attention to what and who we are. If you do not go about dealing with all unfamiliar activities with caution you should very well expect a unwelcomed result. But proceed with caution and be prudent with your intake of unfamiliar substances and my goodness then we would all be runners up for that 4year degree, would we not? This is why we have doctors and survey panels and test study groups. Because rather than each human for himself conduct the test and record the data for determination of a self diagnosis. Our society likes to be democratic and social and choose groups predefined as capable by way of education testing and license to make the decisions for the majority of our fellow human as to what we as a free nation will allow to be consumed into oneself and allow one to still be deemed assolicialy acceptable and tolerable without unusual special consideration or accommodation therefore allowing us to all live happily one nation under one sun in these wonderful United States. I thought it was common sence everyone ought to PAY ATTENTION closely because what effects you one way most likely not effect me in the same exact way. No one drug should be illegal for every single person, thus there is no magical pill that everyone in the world can take no matter the illness and it cure their complaint.

  • Brooke

    July 13th, 2017 at 6:43 AM

    Love readings these comments. Never thought of psychedelic drugs this way. I was writing a drugs essay on addiction but I may have to change my topic. This is much more interesting. And really a good study. Thanks Zawn!

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