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Stanford expert weighs in on the use of psychedelic drugs in medicine

In light of a conference taking place in San Jose, KQED's Forum tackled a controversial subject: the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD to treat a variety of mental-health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clinical research on psychedelics was taboo for decades, but as pointed out by Harvard psychiatrist Charles Grob, MD, some researchers have shown a recent, renewed interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of these drugs. Grob, for example, has done work looking at the use of psilocybin - found in "magic mushrooms" - to treat people with cancer-related anxiety.

Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, a PTSD expert, was one of Forum's guests and said there were several things about this line of work that "worry me greatly." There are already good psychotherapeutic treatments for things like PTSD and depression, he said, and he pointed out that a psychedelic experience could actually re-traumatize people in already-vulnerable states. He also talked about the dangers of psychedelics:

There is neurobiological reason for concern about... the use of these drugs doing damage to the brain [and] increasing the risk of vulnerability to substance abuse - and there is research to suggest that. So I think caution is the word here.

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