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  1. ITV Report

Author Michael Pollan says drugs like LSD could help solve Britain's mental health crisis

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD could provide a solution to Britain's mental health crisis, a best-selling author has claimed.

But Michael Pollan, activist and writer of new book 'How to Change Your Mind', believes the idea is so radical that big pharmaceutical firms may struggle to market and make money from it.

For his research Pollan, 63, who recently appeared in Netflix series Cooked, took psychedelic drugs such as LSD and even smoked the venom of the Sonoran Desert Toad, which is hallucinogenic

'You have to understand what a mental health crisis we’re in,' he told ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke.

'If these drugs work they will be embraced. I don't think people will care if it's a spiritual experience, or whatever it is.

'It will be difficult to think now how we fit them into the frame work we have for treating mental health because you're no prescribing a chemical you're prescribing an experience. If you don't have the experience you don’t' have the effect and that experience is a psychological experience.

He hopes that psychedelic drugs will be embraced by more people. 'We've been used to either talk therapy or drug therapy. The pharmaceutical industry is used to selling pills that you take every day. This you only do once or twice, so how do they make money?

'It will be a big change and as many of the researchers will tell you if you ask them this could be a revolution in mental health care.'

Mental health is a big area of concern in the UK with around one in four people experiencing mental health problems. The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is suicide.

Meanwhile, depression has risen by 18 per cent worldwide since 2005 according to the World Health Organisation.

Pollan was inspired to look at the science behind psychedelic therapy where he says there has not been much innovation since the late 1980s and 1990s.

18%
Depression has risen by 18 per cent worldwide since 2005 according to the World Health Organisation

He added: “Addiction is rampant so we have a big problem and we don’t have a lot of tools.”

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a fast acting hallucinogenic drug that has similar effects to LSD and can cause the user to have a distorted view on objects and reality.

On his profound experience taking toad venom, he said: “You have not even completed your inhalation before you feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon.”

He found that many responded to the drug in a similar way and described it as “therapy by self-transcendence.”

New research from the journal Cell Reports has also suggested that psychedelic drugs such as LSD can effectively re-wire the brain and has the possibility to help treat anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.