Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and the United States has one of the highest suicide rates among the wealthiest nations with 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 population. Suicide rates have been rising rapidly over the past two decades at an alarming rate; with a 30% increase reported in the annual suicide rates in the U.S. between 2000 and 2020. There is an immediate and pressing need for identifying effective treatment options for suicidal ideation and the mental health challenges liked to suicide.
As research into the therapeutic use of psychedelics for mental health grows, some evidence suggests that these substances might prove to be an effective alternative treatment option for those at risk of suicide. Researchers have been consistently reporting successful results in exploring psychedelics and MDMA as a treatment option for a host of psychiatric disorders and risk factors linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs).
MDMA and classic psychedelics have demonstrated great efficacy for the treatment of chronic and treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and anxiety linked to life-threatening illnesses, all of which are strong risk factors for STBs.
A group of Harvard University researchers recently examined the potential links between MDMA and psilocybin use and STBs by analyzing data from 484,732 adult participants in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH 2008–2019). The NSDUH is an annual survey that aims to provide the latest information on substance use, mental health, and overall health in the United States.
The results from their research found that lifetime MDMA use was associated with a 10% reduced odds of past-year suicidal thinking and past-year suicidal planning. They also found that lifetime psilocybin use was associated with reduced odds of past month psychological distress and past year suicidal thinking.
These findings are significant enough to warrant experimental studies to explore whether these correlations are rooted in causation and how can these findings and alternate treatment options be leveraged to save lives. Furthermore, additional research in this direction might pave the way for a much-needed drug policy legislative overhaul.