The mythical and debunked theory that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes depression, which launched an antidepressant industry in 1989, is being rephrased today to sell Americans on the idea that psychedelic drugs could improve their mental health. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, a watchdog for the mental health field, says that in the wake of SSRI and other antidepressants having been exposed as being no more effective than a placebo–with a threat to industry profits–psychedelics are being peddled to replace antidepressants and to capture a projected $10 billion a year market. But the change is like switching seats on the Titanic, Jan Eastgate, CCHR’s international president says: “One isn’t less harmful than the other and the theories behind them are both unscientific.”
It was argued that SSRIs could increase the levels of the chemical, serotonin, hypothesized to improve depression. A recent study has refuted this. A similar theory was marketed in the 1960s, encouraging people to take hallucinogens like LSD–legally and illicitly. Today, psychedelics are referred to as “serotonergic hallucinogens.”
David B. Yaden, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Center for Psychedelic and Conscious Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, delivered a presentation on psychedelics at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual convention in May 2022, sharing that “serotonin molecules actually look quite similar to LSD and psilocybin–thus, serotonergic hallucinogens.”
The global antidepressants market was expected to decline 42% from $26.25 billion in 2020 to $15.87 billion in 2021. This is an incentive for a psychedelic revival. And it’s a huge market. IQVia statistics for 2020 show 45 million Americans taking antidepressants. With the drugs having an admitted up to 46% failure rate, that’s a potential market of 20.7 million people encouraged to “turn on, tune in and drop out”–the catchphrase for psychedelic drug use in the 1960s–on hallucinogens.
As an August 2022 Slate magazine article on psychedelics reported, pharmaceutical companies are looking to psychedelics as a way to replace costly mental illness prescriptions for what they argue are “ineffective drugs.”
Facing profit loss, the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry now admits psychotropic drugs are ineffective–no better than placebos. But that is not what consumers were told when the SSRI and follow-up antidepressants were released with promises of better workability and a revolution in mental health treatment in 1989.
Eastgate says: “If the industry has lied about the chemical imbalance theory and antidepressant workability since the 1980s, what hype are consumers being fed today about psychedelics, that is also misleading?”
A recent survey said that 65% of Americans who are struggling with mental health want access to psychedelics as a treatment. However, the survey was conducted for a company that promotes psychedelic-based treatments. The company acquired Ketamine Wellness Centers where injections of ketamine, an anesthetic that is used as an antidepressant off-label (not Food and Drug Administration-approved). Ketamine has hallucinogenic properties that are theorized to be connected to its alleged antidepressant effects, yet even Psychiatric Times reported its widespread adoption has “leaped ahead of scientific understanding.” Despite, the lack of science, it is purported that “Ketamine may induce alterations in consciousness and personal frameworks similar to those achieved by serotonergic psychedelics….” [Emphasis added]
It took 30 years for the chemical imbalance in the brain causing depression myth to be fully recognized as pseudoscience and dangerously misleading to consumers, which CCHR doesn’t want to see happen with psychedelics. The group points to the theories now emerging to market psychedelics–none of which are scientifically substantiated, such as:
— “You can re-calibrate the brain” with a ketamine injection.
— “Hallucinogens like are thought to produce their perception-altering effects by acting on neural circuits in the brain that use serotonin.” [Emphasis added]
There are also claims that hallucinogens may cause “a temporary chemical imbalance in the brain, which causes hallucinations and other effects such as euphoria.”
Psychedelics quickly go from the psychiatrist’s couch to the streets. A new study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health reports Americans are “turning on, tuning in and dropping out” more than ever. The use of hallucinogens among teenagers and adults rose from 1.7% in 2002 to 2.2% in 2019 — now an estimated 5.5 million people in the U.S. ages 12 and older.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “The effects of hallucinogens like LSD can be described as drug-induced psychosis–distortion or disorganization of a person’s capacity to recognize reality, think rationally, or communicate with others.” Further, “Use of hallucinogenic drugs also produces tolerance to other drugs in this class, including psilocybin and peyote.”
Allan Horwitz, Ph.D., in a review published in The Medscape Journal in 2008, wrote: “After a rapturous reception [given SSRIs] upon their introduction in the late 1980s, which persisted until the emergence of uncertainty during the early years of the 21st century, we are now witnessing a rising chorus of cynicism and disbelief about these drugs.”
Eastgate says: “We are seeing the same rapturous reception given psychedelics, buoyed by a re-hashed brain chemical theory that is just as false as the one used to sell SSRI antidepressants. We should recognize the trademark signs of this marketing myth with psychedelics and prevent America from ‘turning on and tuning out’ to these mind-altering drugs before it is too late.”
 Sonari Glinton, “Big Pharma Is Betting on Psychedelics for Mental Health: Will it Pay Off,” Slate, 18 Aug 2022, slate.com/technology/2022/08/psychedelic-drugs-mental-health-compass-pathways.html
 “The Recent Resurgence of Psilocybin: Is It Here to Stay?” Psychiatric Times, 22 Aug. 2022, www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/the-recent-resurgence-of-psilocybin-is-it-here-to-stay
 Op. cit., Sonari Glinton, Slate, 18 Aug 2022
 Hannah Sparks, “Millions more are tripping on psychedelic drugs than ever before: study,” New York Post, 19 Aug 2022, nypost.com/2022/08/19/millions-more-are-tripping-on-psychedelic-drugs-than-ever-before-study/
 “How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?” National Institute of Drug Abuse, nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/how-do-hallucinogens-lsd-psilocybin-peyote-dmt-ayahuasca-affect-brain-body
 www.cchrint.org/2019/08/05/getting-it-right-about-antidepressants/; “Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation,” Medscape J Med. 2008; 10(5): 121, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2438484/
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
6616 Sunset Boulevard
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