Jenni Penttinen

Jenni has recently completed postgraduate studies in Clinical Pharmacology at the King’s College London. Prior to this, she completed a BSc in Pharmacy at the University of Helsinki. Her MSc dissertation project focused on the safety of classical psychedelics implicated for the treatment of depression. She is interested in drug development and is hoping to secure a role within this in the near future.

The safety of psychedelics indicated for the treatment of depression

Aims Classic psychedelics are being trialled for the treatment of various mental health disorders. However, their safety profile is not yet fully established. This research aims to evaluate the circumstances that led to death following psychedelic use.
Methods All psychedelic deaths reported to the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths were extracted for analysis (1997-2020). Deaths were categorised as those with evidence for recent psychedelic use, or where a history of psychedelic use (with no evidence of recent use) was provided, and analysed for drugs detected at post-mortem, the context in which they were used, the causes of death, and demographics.
Results There were 41 deaths with evidence of recent psychedelic use, and 51 where the deceased had a history of psychedelic use. The main cause of death in the recent use group was toxicity caused by other administered drugs (46.3%), in which at least one stimulant was detected at post-mortem in 63.2% of cases. In the historic psychedelic use group, the suicide rate (19.6%) was higher than that of the recent psychedelic use group (14.6%), and that of all drug-related deaths reported to NPSAD (14.7%).
Conclusions Deaths due to psychedelic use are rare, especially when considering the prevalence of use in the UK. Where deaths do occur, they are seldom due to toxicity of the psychedelic administered. Use of psychedelics in the clinical setting would mitigate this factor. However, due to the concerning suicide rate in historic use group, longitudinal monitoring of patients treated with psychedelics would be needed.