Party drugs may help depression but use must be monitored, doctors warn

Psilocybin mushrooms have been outlawed in the Netherlands. Photo:

Medication based on psychedelics such MDMA, ketamine en psilocybin is helping people with depression or post traumatic stress disorder but Dutch medics warn their introduction on the market will have to be carefully monitored.

Some one in five people in the Netherlands suffer from depression at some time or another in their lives and around a third do not improve using conventional medication.

While a nose spray containing ketamine is already being used for people with depression, doctors are concerned that people will start to experiment with the drugs, which are illegal but easily available, without professional guidance.

‘Involvement and finance from the government are crucial to enable independent, large scale research in a clinical setting’, some 15 doctors and scientists from a number of universities said in a manifesto.

The use of the so-called party drugs could ‘revolutionise’ treatment, professor of psychiatry Robert Schoevers told broadcaster NOS but research into their long-term effects and effects on vulnerable patients needs to done before they can be introduced safely.

Esketamine, a ketamine based drug, has already been registered as a treatment for people with severe depression and other psychedelics based drugs are expected to follow in the next few years.

Strict monitoring is necessary to prevent people from experimenting with the drug at home, Schoevers said. ‘We need proper training for psychologists and psychiatrists who use these drugs. Mental health facilities have to register the outcomes. That is the only way to see what works best in a range of people and what the long-term effects are.’

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