the hallucinogenic drugssuch as LSD or mushrooms, are well known for their recreational use and the damage it causes. However, they can also be very beneficial. There is a very interesting line of research in which his therapeutic properties against various mental health disorders. This is a very promising area to which, moreover, is now being added the artificial intelligence (AI).
Thanks to this AI, a team of scientists from Harvard University and MIT managed to classify the different hallucinogenic drugs according to the symptoms they could treat most effectively. There is with a big therapeutic potential in front of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorderamong others.
And it is that in reality there are no good or bad substances. What can kill you can also save your life in a different dose. The drug demonizationhallucinogenic or not, it depends on the prism through which one decides to look at them. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence, scientists learn much faster how to bring them out of the dark side.
The friendly face of hallucinogenic drugs
The harmful or positive effect of hallucinogenic drugs depends largely on the environment in which they are consumed. explained it to hypertexthe Miguel Ruiz Veguilla, research psychiatrist from the PsyNal group. “With drugs, context is important. For example, if amphetamines are taken in a health setting, the side effects and addiction issues that arise recreationally are not created, even at the same dose”.
This can be extrapolated to many other substances, including hallucinogenic drugs. In fact, Ruiz Veguilla also told us about some very early stage studies that are using this type of compound to treat a wide range of mental illnesses.
Particularly noteworthy is the case of post-traumatic stress disorder. It occurs when a traumatic experience is etched into the brain of the person who suffered it, causing a wide variety of psychiatric symptoms. “When someone has post-traumatic stress, the memory stays fixed in the hippocampus in a bestial way,” explains the expert. “However, we have seen that taking one of these substances and then carrying out a psychological intervention a memory less damaging than this event could be introduced.
It’s still hypothetical, but it’s very interesting, both for the hallucinogenic drug use and by how psychopharmaceuticals are closely related to psychological therapy. It’s practically a creation brought back to real life.
But precisely because of the hypothetical nature of all this, the studies are as important as those that are beginning to be carried out with artificial intelligence. These algorithms help to better target the search, indicating which drugs are useful for each disease. And the way in which they achieve this is most curious.
Artificial intelligence to treat mental illnesses
In an article published in The conversation, Galen Ballentine and Sam Friedmantwo of the scientists in this research from MIT and Harvard University, tell what this artificial intelligence algorithm is all about.
As is always the case with these technologies, it needs to be trained with a fair amount of data. To do this, these researchers used a database belonging to the Erowid Centerof Canada, in which are collected more than 6,000 testimonials from people who have consumed hallucinogenic substances.
What the AI algorithm does is analyze all these testimonials and look for the words that are repeated the most. Then they relate to brain areas in which we know receptors for each drug. In this way, it is possible to search for the symptoms associated with the most repeated words and, thus, to establish what each substance is for.
For example, we have seen that changes in social perception they are normally linked to a serotonin receptor found in the visual cortex of the brain. Instead, the famous feeling of transcendence associated with religious experiences typical of hallucinogenic drugs appears to be associated with dopamine and opioid receptors located in a brain network known as the salience network.
Regarding the auditory hallucinations, involved multiple receptors distributed throughout the auditory cortex. As you might expect, actually.
With all of this information, the most well-known hallucinogenic drugs can be grouped together to better understand what each might treat. There would then remain the phase of finding the doses, establishing the route of administration and above all verifying their real effectiveness. That’s what they’re for clinical tests. However, there is no doubt that the AI gave these scientists a great lead to start pulling.
I am Bhumi Shah, a highly skilled digital marketer with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and content writing in the tech industry.