News / Vancouver

Vancouverite takes acid, discovers new gender

Since she was a child, Jessica Jarrett has felt like a stranger in her own skin. It wasn’t until an acid trip last year that she realized why.

“I was sitting there on LSD, and I was just like, ‘It would be cool to be a girl. If I could just flip that switch, I would totally do that,’” the 28-year-old from East Vancouver told Metro.

Born a male, Jarrett said she struggled with her gender identity since puberty, recalling how she would use tweezers to pluck hairs from her face. When it became impossible to keep up, she reluctantly accepted her changing body.

That all changed last year when she tried LSD and realized she no longer wanted to live her life in a body that didn’t reflect who she was on the inside.

Jarrett’s experience is just one example of why some psychiatrists are calling for drugs like LSD, long associated with 1960s hippie counterculture, to be made available as a tool in the treatment of depression and other mental illness.

New research shows promising potential.

A study published March in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease showed that LSD can promote statistically significantly reductions in anxiety for people with life-threatening diseases who were near the end of their lives.

LSD is banned in many countries, including Canada. Last year, Health Canada amended its Special Access Programme to make it illegal for doctors to prescribe LSD and other drugs like cocaine and heroin, which they could previously prescribe for individual patient use.

But Vancouver psychologist Andrew Feldmár wants the federal agency to make LSD legally available to psychologists and psychiatrists for their patients.

“The use of LSD as a therapeutic adjunct speeds up psychotherapy,” he said, adding that the drug allows patients to remember early childhood experiences and reprogram their brain.

Feldmár, who is also studying the impact of MDMA, known as ecstasy, on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, said LSD has the potential to help patients with the most severe cases of depression to become completely cured of the mood disorder after taking LSD.

He has worked with patients who were even able to stop taking other medications like anti-depressants after only three LSD sessions.

Feldmár has been interested in psychedelic drugs as a treatment tool since 1967, when he took LSD as a psychology student in London, Ont.

Born in Budapest, Feldmár, who is Jewish, was separated from his mother at a young age when she was sent to Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. He moved to Canada at 16, but continued to suffer from intense separation anxiety until he tried LSD.

He hopes his research will help make drugs like MDMA and LSD available for psychiatric use in the future.

“It basically changed my life,” he said.

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