Missouri researchers explore psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness

mushrooms under pink light
Photo credit Getty Images

Over the weekend, the University of Missouri held the 2022 Missouri Psychedelic Advocacy Conference, a gathering that explored how psychedelic drugs — like mushrooms, DMT, ketamine, and more — can be used therapeutically to help people struggling with mental illness.

Parag Bhatt, an expert in the field and the intake coordinator for Silo Wellness, joined KMOX to talk about the possibilities for psychedelic drugs in the therapy space. He said that psychedelics have the potential to create “indescribable” moments in a person’s life.

“Depending on the type of molecule that is consumed, you have differences in experiences,” he explained. “Psychedelic mushrooms, or what is commonly known as psilocybin as the active, the most famous active pro drug, is a completely different experience than what you would expect from mescaline, which is found in peyote.” Things like DMT, he said, is sometimes described as “a catapult across the universe.”

These drugs have the potential to help with depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictive or compulsive behaviors, and more.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very powerful illness that has been looked at particularly within the veteran population and those that have suffered sexual assaults,” he said. “And we found that it has been really efficacious in reaching them. So there's a laundry list of different disorders and things that we can take away. It's also really, really wonderful for individuals that are experiencing end of life worry.”

The only psychedelics that are currently available for use are ketamine derivatives, Bhatt said. Oregon and Colorado recently legalized mushrooms, and some other states and cities have decriminalized the substance. Despite their illegality, Bhatt said, most of the side effects of the drugs are positive.

“All our guests go through a really, really rigorous screening to make sure that there are no contraindications of medications that could cause negative side effects,” he said. “But for the most part, once these individuals have cleared the screening, and they've undergone this assisted therapy, we find that their side effects are greater senses of empathy, oneness with not only nature and environment, but with people.”

“There is a just really wonderful, positive feeling that many of these individuals are left with,” Bhatt added. “Those that have been crippled with anxiety are able to go outside and interact with people, those that have found it difficult to roll out of bed in the morning find new purposes.”

Hear more from Dr. Bhatt as he talks about what a ‘mystical experience’ is like, how it can change someone’s perspective, and more:

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images