Annalee Newitz in io9:
LSD and ketamine, two powerful hallucinogens, are also potential cures for depression, OCD, and anxiety. Two studies published this week, in Science and Nature, confirm that hallucinogenic drugs stimulate healthy brain activity, even promoting the growth of neurons.
Ketamine and depression
The study in Science, released today, focused entirely on the drug ketamine. Used frequently as an animal sedative, ketamine can also be used to sedate humans and is also taken recreationally because of its hallucinogenic and euphoric effects. Molecular psychiatrist Nanxin Li and colleagues dosed rats with modest amounts of ketamine, and observed that the drug boosted signaling between neurons in the brain, and even led to healthy growth of synapses. (Chronic depression can be linked to inhibited synaptic growth.) Ultimately, they concluded that ketamine might be useful in treating depression because it increases brain activity instantly – so there is no need to wait weeks or months for the drug to take effect.
LSD and OCD
In the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Franz X. Vollenweider and Michael Kometer gave a broad overview of research into hallucinogens over the past half century. They gathered together research from hundreds of studies on how hallucinogens like LSD, psilocybin, and ketamine affect the brains of healthy people – as well as people suffering from depression and other disorders.