Mind-bending psychedelic drugs such as LSD could soon be used to treat anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, US scientists have claimed.
A series of tests on animals in the US has proved the drugs can re-wire the brain and mend broken connections between neurons.
Scientists believe the research – which was published in the journal Cell Reports – may pave the way for a raft of new mental illness treatments on humans.
In a range of tests using a wide range of psychedelic drugs, the brain structure in a number of flies and rats was found to be altered.
The tested drugs included LSD, DMT – a psychedelic drug derived from ayahuasca, an Amazonian herbal tea – and DOI, an hallucinogenic form of amphetamine.
Scientists found that the use of DMT on rats allowed them to overcome fearful memories of suffering an electric shock.
The test mimicked the treating of PTSD in humans.
The tests also proved that the exposure to the hallucinogenic drugs leads to the growth of dendrites, dendritic spines and synapses, all of which help neurons communicate with one another.
Researchers believe that the changes that took place in the animals’ brains are almost certain to be replicated in humans too.
Previous experiments have shown psychedelic drugs produce similar effects across species.
Lead scientist Dr David Olson, from the University of California at Davis, said: "People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis."
It comes after Katamine, an anaesthetic used as a recreational "club drug", was also proven to alter brain wiring.
In previous tests, Katamine produced rapid anti-depressant effects.
However, these were accompanied with a number of serious side effects including high blood pressure, impaired memory and delerium.
Dr Olson added: "If we fully understand the signalling pathways that lead to neural plasticity, we might be able to target critical nodes along those pathways with drugs that are safer than ketamine or psychedelics."
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