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How LSD and shrooms could help treat anxiety, addiction, and depression

One pill helped Alana beat a near-lifelong smoking addiction.

It wasn’t a traditional medicine — the kind you may hear about from your doctor and commercials (at least not yet). It was psilocybin, the psychedelic compound taken from magic mushrooms. And based on a still-too-small but growing body of research, Alana’s experience could be just the beginning of a promising treatment for smoking — which still kills more than 480,000 Americans each year — and other debilitating conditions.

Here’s what we know: In supervised lab studies, psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD seemed to produce psychological or mystical experiences so powerful that they could help treat conditions like end-of-life anxiety, depression, addiction, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

But the research on these drugs is still very preliminary. The very few studies that have been done have a major limitation: Their sample sizes tend to be so small that it’s very difficult to say if the findings are real or unbiased. That will require much more research to know for sure.

There are things policymakers could do to accelerate the research. Despite promising early results, funding still remains a big concern, with almost no government dollars going to new clinical research on psychedelics. And since psychedelic drugs are strictly classified and regulated under the federal government’s scheduling system, researchers have to jump over regulatory hurdles to get such studies done.

But experiences like Alana’s are enormously promising. Quitting smoking alone is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health. There’s certainly enough evidence, at this point, to merit more research — and the funding to pay for it.