A growing body of research suggests that the United States is facing a mental health crisis, with in adults experiencing mental illness and in experiencing serious mental illness annually, according to data from the National Alliance on Mental Health.1
Although concerns about mental health had been increasing prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related isolation accelerated issues such as depression and substance use disorders (SUDs). For example, 1 in 15 adults in the United States experienced both SUD and mental illness in 2020, and 1 in 5 report that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their mental health.1
Community pharmacists are well-positioned to identify patients at risk of mental illness and take action on this public health issue. In addition to conducting screenings, pharmacists’ accessibility and their role in the community enable them to run mental health promotion campaigns and provide education to those with mental illness, as well as their caregivers and loved ones.2
Pharmacists are also seeing these impacts among their own workforce. The pandemic and heightened workloads have led to stress, fear, anxiety, depression, burnout, and exhaustion among frontline workers,3 which has, in turn, led to well-documented understaffing. In addition to focusing on individual wellness, pharmacy leaders must foster a culture of resilience within their organizations, creating tools to assess and support mental health concerns.
Novel treatment approaches are showing efficacy in managing this mental health crisis. This month’s cover feature highlights the growing research around nonhallucinogenic psychedelic medicines such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mushroom-derived psilocybin, which have antidepressant effects. This research complements the recent FDA approval of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) for clinical trial use investigating schizophrenia, demonstrating another potential use for psychedelic medicines.4
Pharmacists will play a key role in the future of psychedelic medicines, either in clinic environments or through patient counseling. As patients continue to grapple with depression, anxiety, SUDs, and other mental illness concerns, pharmacists must leverage their role as accessible health care providers to provide support and tools.
Elsewhere in this issue, we examine approaches to help patients manage hypertension, such as pharmaceutical interventions and lifestyle modifications. Other topics include improving health outcomes with medication safety efforts, the need for wider implementation of tech-checktech, and counseling patients on constipation.
Thanks for reading.