• Psychedelic Medicine
  • Psychedelic Medicine Moderator: mr peabody
  • Bluelight HOT THREADS
  • Let's Welcome Our NEW MEMBERS!

Medicine Anxiety

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Anxiety might be treated by regulating gut bacteria

Neuroscience News | May 26, 2019

A new meta-analysis study reports regulating intestinal microbiota is more than 50% effective at helping to reduce anxiety.

People who experience anxiety symptoms might be helped by taking steps to regulate the microorganisms in their gut using probiotic and non-probiotic food and supplements, suggests a review of studies published today in the journal General Psychiatry.

Anxiety symptoms are common in people with mental diseases and a variety of physical disorders, especially in disorders that are related to stress.

Previous studies have shown that as many as a third of people will be affected by anxiety symptoms during their lifetime.

Increasingly, research has indicated that gut microbiota — the trillions of microorganisms in the gut which perform important functions in the immune system and metabolism by providing essential inflammatory mediators, nutrients and vitamins — can help regulate brain function through something called the “gut-brain axis.”

Recent research also suggests that mental disorders could be treated by regulating the intestinal microbiota, but there is no specific evidence to support this.

Therefore a team of researchers from the Shanghai Mental Health Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine set out to investigate if there was evidence to support improvement of anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota.

They reviewed 21 studies that had looked at 1,503 people collectively.

Of the 21 studies, 14 had chosen probiotics as interventions to regulate intestinal microbiota (IRIFs), and seven chose non-probiotic ways, such as adjusting daily diets.

Probiotics are living organisms found naturally in some foods that are also known as “good” or “friendly” bacteria because they fight against harmful bacteria and prevent them from settling in the gut.

The researchers found that probiotic supplements in seven studies within their analysis contained only one kind of probiotic, two studies used a product that contained two kinds of probiotics, and the supplements used in the other five studies included at least three kinds.

Overall, 11 of the 21 studies showed a positive effect on anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota, meaning that more than half (52 percent of the studies showed this approach to be effective, although some studies that had used this approach did not find it worked.

Of the 14 studies that had used probiotics as the intervention, more than a third (36 percent found them to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, while six of the remaining seven studies that had used non-probiotics as interventions found those to be effective — a 86% rate of effectiveness.

Some studies had used both the IRIF (interventions to regulate intestinal microbiota) approach and treatment as usual.

In the five studies that used treatment as usual and IRIF as interventions, only studies that had conducted non-probiotic ways got positive results, that showed a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Non-probiotic interventions were also more effective in the studies that used IRIF alone. In those studies only using IRIF, 80% were effective when using non-probiotic interventions, while only 45% were found to be effective when using probiotic ways.

The authors say one reason that non-probiotic interventions were significantly more effective than probiotic interventions was possible due to the fact that changing diet (a diverse energy source) could have more of an impact on gut bacteria growth than introducing specific types of bacteria in a probiotic supplement.

Also, because some studies had involved introducing different types of probiotics, these could have fought against each other to work effectively, and many of the intervention times used might have been too short to significantly increase the abundance of the imported bacteria.

Most of the studies did not report serious adverse events, and only four studies reported mild adverse effects such as dry mouth and diarrhoea.

This is an observational study, and as such, cannot establish a cause. Indeed, the authors acknowledge some limitations, such as differences in study design, subjects, interventions and measurements, making the data unsuitable for further analysis.

Nevertheless, they say the overall quality of the 21 studies included was high.

The researchers conclude: “We find that more than half of the studies included showed it was positive to treat anxiety symptoms by regulation of intestinal microbiota.

“There are two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions) to regulate intestinal microbiota, and it should be highlighted that the non-probiotic interventions were more effective than the probiotic interventions. More studies are needed to clarify this conclusion since we still cannot run meta-analysis so far.”

They also suggest that, in addition to the use of psychiatric drugs for treatment, “we can also consider regulating intestinal flora to alleviate anxiety symptoms.”

 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Treating severe anxiety with psilocybin

"My anxiety developed when I was diagnosed with epilepsy 11 years ago," explained Nick, as he led me on a Sunday morning nature trail to a mushroom picking hotspot in Yorkshire.

"But I never really recognised my problem until I got knocked off my bike two years ago. I had 15 staples in my head and was hospitalised for three days. That brought it to the forefront. I realised I had quite a bad anxiety problem."

Nick, 29, is part of a growing subculture of people who are self-medicating their mental health issues with psilocybin, while risking up to seven years in prison. With his tightly knotted hiking boots, army-green waterproof jacket and large rucksack, he looks like any other early morning rambler.

"I first tried magic mushrooms with a couple of friends 8 years ago. Years later I read Professor Nutt's book Drugs Without the Hot Air and was interested to learn about the links between psilocybin, anxiety and depression. After reading that book I decided to start foraging for mushrooms myself."

"In my own experience, it does have a positive effect on anxiety. As soon as I 'come down,' any thoughts of anxiety that are going through my mind immediately evaporate. It just goes in an instant - melts away. The feeling of wellbeing lasts a month or two until something triggers the negative thoughts again."

"After searching online, I knew what I was looking for, I managed to find a couple of local fields that I forage on when the season comes. During the off-season I have to find other avenues to get hold of mushrooms, including ordering them online or buying ones grown indoors. But nothing beats the romance of finding my own. Psychedelics are something I've grown to respect, so I mainly leave it to the season as I don't want to overdo it and it lose the effect."

"I think they have a great potential for naturally treating mental health issues without using synthetic drugs, which invariably come with a string of nasty side effects."

"We're looking at is a largely unexplored technology that set the psychiatry world ablaze in the 1950s, aborted by widespread recreational abuse, the reaction of the media and its confluence with the Vietnam war,"
argues David Nichols, a Purdue University pharmacologist, in an article for the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

James Rucker, a leading psychiatrist at Kings College London, recently spoke out against the law surrounding psychedelic drugs, which he believes is hampering research into their prospective medicinal benefits. On psilocybin and LSD, he said he believes the Government should downgrade their unnecessarily restrictive class-A, citing that they were extensively used and researched in clinical psychiatry before their prohibition in 1967.

In 2012, researchers battled through reams of red tape as the result of the negative connotations surrounding the drug, and were eventually able to test the psychoactive effects of magic mushrooms.

The team's study, published in British Journal of Psychiatry, found volunteers given psilocybin experienced cues to vividly remember really positive events in their lives, such as their wedding day or the birth of their child.

It does seem there is little evidence that psilocybin is unsafe in a controlled setting, and even less evidence that it has addictive potential - or is even habitual at all - but plenty of evidence that suggests its prospective therapeutic benefits.

Taking that into account, isn't it time that we let go of old prejudices and loosen the laws surrounding psilocybin in medical research? I say yes. Mental health is one of the most important issues of our times; we should be pouring funding into studies on how to treat it, instead of hampering the scientists.

The human race has reaped the benefits of psychedelic mushrooms for millennia ever since they grew in the Elysian fields of Greece, yet we still know very little about how they work.

It seems that until we wise up, people like Nick, an otherwise totally law abiding citizen, will continue to break the law.

https://www.unilad.co.uk/featured/we...gic-mushrooms/
 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Combating anxiety with nootropic supplements

by Wade Hurley | June 6, 2019

For millennia, we just followed animals around. We worked in tribes to hunt, fish, plant, harvest, build shelter, and handle every other material need as a unit – for the most part. Then, the agricultural and industrial revolutions happened, and the last one percent of human existence until now became a whirlwind of technological breakthroughs. The result? Forty million of us are diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression, and that’s just in the United States, according to recent statistics.

We sit in cubicles and work all day so we can provide for our families. No more mud between the toes, no more building shelters, no more community collaboration! Psychologists believe that anxiety and depression are so prevalent now because the human brain, having acclimatized to a nomadic/pastoral existence, is unable to handle the rigors of modern life. Where many of us turn to risky prescription drugs to bridge this gap, there is another option: nootropics.

Nootropics: What and How?

The term “nootropic” refers to a class of natural and synthetic substances used to enhance one or more of our mental faculties; concentration, alertness, mood, memory, cognition, and so forth. Nootropics can take the form of pills, powders, herbal teas, and other forms of food. When used properly, some nootropics can ameliorate anxiety symptoms significantly.

Okay, you may be saying, but how? How does a nootropic fight anxiety and improve mental performance? There are several mechanisms by which these substances can reap their benefits. Some nootropics stimulate receptors in the brain that allow for important functions, like memory or sleep. Other nootropics can mimic the action of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that promote calmness and de-stimulation. Additionally, some nootropics can improve blood supply to the brain and combat the harmful processes introduced by free radical exposure.

Five nootropics for anxiety

Alright, let’s talk specifics. As mentioned, there are many natural and synthetic nootropics, most of which are available as over-the-counter supplements for different uses. The following is a brief review of five very popular nootropics that are used to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and enhance overall mental wellness.

BACOPA MONNIERI

This herb, from several continents around the world, is as plentiful as it is powerful. Bacopa monnieri is an herbal nootropic and adaptogen that has long been used in traditional medicine to reduce anxiety and stress, improve memory, and boost cognitive performance. Beyond traditional belief, there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up these claims.

LEMON BALM

Lemon balm is a mint-like herb with numerous health benefits, but it is mostly known for its sedative and calming effect. People take Lemon balm to reduce anxiety, and to help them sleep. Although more commonly used as a sleep aid than a nootropic, some studies have shown it may help improve aspects of cognitive function.

Lemon balm can be taken in capsule or powder form, or better, you can sip on a nice cup of savory tea made from its leaves, whether fresh or dried.

LION'S MANE MUSHROOM

This mushroom has been around for thousands of years, and it lately became a very popular supplement revered for its memory-boosting, brain-protecting, and anxiety-fighting benefits. Lion’s mane may help protect from age-related cognitive decline and in fighting off brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

PHENIBUT

If herbal remedies aren’t doing the trick for you, you may want to consider one of the more potent synthetic nootropics, and of those, phenibut tops the list when it comes to mitigating anxiety. Phenibut is an analogue of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is primarily responsible for calming your brain and helping you relax.

Phenibut works very well with no significant side effects when used properly. Phenibut is not regulated by the FDA, and it is usually bought from online stores in the form of nootropic powder or capsules.

SULBUTIAMINE

Fatigue and anxiety have an interesting relationship that neuropsychologists are still exploring. Sulbutiamine, a derivative of vitamin B1, is a synthetic nutritional supplement that is used to reduce fatigue and improve mental energy and performance. Sulbutiamine may help anxiety sufferers restore healthy energy levels and improve other anxiety symptoms.

 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Therapy didn't help my anxiety, so I turned to psychedelics

I am in some kind of hole, I told my therapist. I was trying to work out what was happening to my mind. Months of traumas - family issues, the violent death of a friend, the implosion of my relationship, had, like a slow poison, seeped into my life until I felt paralyzed. I was trapped in a loop of discursive, self-critical thought. I am a freelance journalist, but I found myself unable to take on new assignments and, inexplicably, unwilling to invoice for finished work. After our session, my therapist eyed me with indifference and handed me forty photocopied pages on cognitive behavioral therapy as he shuffled me out the door. I got the sense that approach was going nowhere.

I had researched meditation, exercise, dietary changes and other ways to prevent myself from slipping further down the hole. But the most intriguing method I came across was psychedelic drugs, which had, in recent studies, shown great efficacy in treating depression, anxiety and PTSD. My underwhelming experience with therapy had left me with the kind of hopelessness that breeds desire for radical solutions. I opened my laptop and googled Toronto psychedelic drugs.

6 weeks later, on a Sunday in February, I was lying on the floor of a woman's apartment in the east end, wrapped in a Mexican blanket and weeping uncontrollably. I'd met the woman a few hours earlier. She was a shaman, a spiritual healer who practices South American plant medicine. In her pre-shamanic life, she suffered from a severe drug addiction, was homeless and hadn't spoken with her family for a decade. Eventually, she made her way to South America, where she trained in the shamanic arts, conducting ceremonies using a psychedelic tea called ayahuasca.

The author Michael Pollan, in his recent book on psychedelics, describes the concept of ego dissolution, which is an often-reported and now scientifically supported effect of potent psychedelics. Scientists at Imperial College London have observed that activity in the brains Default Mode Network, the system responsible for building a sense of self and reflecting on the self's nature, can drop dramatically during a psychedelic trip. The default mode network is vital to healthy neural function, acting as the brains central coordinator. But its also a real son of a bitch, the devil on your shoulder, the author of hopelessness and self-blame. Conditions like anxiety and depression can be associated with a default mode network run amok and, according to proponents of psychedelic treatments, a little dissolution of the ego can be a good thing.

The shaman said she had personally synthesized the medicine I was about to take, DMT. She produced a glass pipe and explained that I was to take five hits. "On number three, you'll tell me you've had enough, and I'll tell you to keep going," she said. If you have ever been close to blackout drunk and seen the world spin uncontrollably around you, then you know what the third hit of DMT is like. The shaman guided the pipe to my mouth for the fourth and then fifth hits, and suddenly I was laid out on my back.

Everything turned black, as though I was watching a blank screen, except that there was no me watching. The blackness was just there, happening. I was vaguely aware of the self, but only insofar as I knew that I was aware at all. Then a pool of green, red and yellow fire appeared, swirling around what looked to be a medieval helmet.

This was taking place within the confines of my brain, yet it was completely involuntary - decisive, overwhelming subjugation of the ego. I started to feel some sense of self again, in the form of two distinct emotions: I was in awe of the fire and terrified of the helmet. I felt I would fall into it and that I was going to die. The image shattered. The pieces re-emerged as a pattern of purple and black shields, then disappeared. Soon, I was aware of the shamans hand on my arm, and I realized that I had been weeping. Respira, she whispered. Breathe.

She was fascinated by what I told her about the helmet and shields. Like all of our emotions, anxiety is a chemical effect in the brain, one that likely evolved over millennia because it served a purpose in our survival. It was a kind of armor, meant to protect us. But when the mind surrenders control, anxiety can become a cage. The helmet made some sense.

Sitting under the fluorescence of the 501 streetcar on my way back home, I thought more about the helmet and how it had shattered before it could take me. Perhaps my anxieties could shatter, too, if I could manage to observe them from the outside. These are realizations that don't require DMT or shamans, of course. But the trip brought shape and clarity to what I had been feeling. I cant say that the fear and the panic have vanished. Sometimes they wake me up early in the morning, or accompany unexpected moments of disappointment or failure. But they seem more brittle now, with obvious cracks through which I can see a world that is a little lighter.

https://torontolife.com/city/life/th...wers-expected/
 

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Iboga found to cure depression, anxiety and PTSD


Ibogaine is a powerful psychedelic from West Africa that has been in use for centuries in traditional healing ceremonies. It can be used in its traditional form from the root bark of the plant (known as iboga), or in the laboratory-isolated form of ibogaine which only contains the central psychoactive substance (known as ibogaine). Today iboga is best known for its miraculous ability to cure or drastically reduce addiction to substances like alcohol, crack cocaine, and heroin in a single treatment. It can also help people overcome addiction to prescription opiates such as morphine, methadone, Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin.

While this may sound too good to be true, scores of personal testimonies and clinical research is backing up this claim, and iboga treatment centers are popping up all over the world specializing in treating addiction, post traumatic stress, and mood disorders. Iboga is renowned for its ability to cure addiction by revealing the fragmented pieces of a person’s past and personality over the course of a long, intense, and ultimately cathartic psychedelic experience. After finishing iboga treatment, patients report a feeling of rebirth that allows them to see the world in a totally new light and leave behind their old destructive patterns of behavior for good.

One fascinating common experience that many people report in iboga treatment is the ability to see your life played out in front of you on a series of 3-dimensional screens that you can zoom into and out of. The “spirit” of the iboga plant is often present during this process, lovingly but authoritatively guiding the person to see the lessons that are in front of them- how they have been out of balance, how their behavior has hurt others, and where they can improve their capacity for joy, wholeness, and health.

With so many reported cases of incredible success with iboga treatment, western doctors and scientists are taking note and performing clinical studies to better understand how iboga works. According to doctor C.M. Anderson of Harvard Medical school, iboga has “unique neuropharmacological and psychobiological properties” that make it particularly conducive to treating chemical dependency. Iboga has a profound ability to guide people through a journey of self-reconciliation that is often at the heart of addictive behaviors and other disorders. With proper integration of this experience and supervised aftercare such as with a recovery coach, these transformative experiences can have a permanent positive effect on a person’s life.

While many undergo ibogaine therapy for serious drug addiction, this treatment can also trigger recoveries from many other psychological issues including depression, anxiety, and trauma. The drug’s deeply personal and illuminating nature also allows patients to let go of different types of patterns not related to drug use that may be equally difficult for them to break. This is especially life changing for victims of chronic depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often cause such intense emotional stress that recovery seems impossible. For people who suffer from these terrible chronic afflictions, iboga offers a bright ray of hope backed by hundreds of years of traditional use, many thousands of successful anecdotal cases, and more and more scientific validation.

https://psychedelictimes.com/learn-more-iboga
 

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Research shows that drinking Matcha tea can reduce anxiety

Neuroscience News | July 9, 2019

Many different countries have a tea culture, and Japanese Matcha tea is growing in popularity around the world. In Japan, Matcha has a long history of being used for various medicinal purposes. It has been suspected to have various beneficial effects on health, but relatively little scientific evidence supported that claim. Now, a group of Japanese researchers from Kumamoto University has shown that anxious behavior in mice is reduced after consuming Matcha powder or Matcha extract. Its calming effects appear to be due to mechanisms that activate dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, both of which are closely related to anxious behavior.

Matcha is the finely ground powder of new leaves from shade-grown (90% shade) Camellia sinensis green tea bushes. The tea (and food flavoring) is enjoyed around the world. In Japan, historical medicinal uses for Matcha included helping people relax, preventing obesity, and treatment of skin conditions. The researchers, therefore, sought to determine its various beneficial effects.




The “elevated plus maze” test is an elevated, plus-shaped, narrow platform with two walled arms that provide safety for the test subject, typically a mouse. It is used as an anxiety test for rodents with the idea that animals experiencing higher anxiety will spend more time in safer walled-off areas. Using this test, researchers found that mouse anxiety was reduced after consuming Matcha powder or Matcha extract. In addition, when the anxiolytic activity of different Matcha extracts was evaluated, a stronger effect was found with the extract derived using 80% ethanol in comparison to the extract derived from only hot water. In other words, a poorly water-soluble Matcha component has stronger anxiolytic effects than a component that is easily soluble in water. A behavioral pharmacological analysis further revealed that Matcha and Matcha extracts reduce anxiety by activating dopamine D1 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.

“Although further epidemiological research is necessary, the results of our study show that Matcha, which has been used as a medicinal agent for many years, may be quite beneficial to the human body,” said study leader, Dr. Yuki Kurauchi. “We hope that our research into Matcha can lead to health benefits worldwide.”

 

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Chronic, intermittent microdoses of DMT have positive effects on mood and anxiety*

Cameron, Benson, DeFelice, Fiehn, Olson (2019)

Drugs capable of ameliorating symptoms of depression and anxiety while also improving cognitive function and sociability are highly desirable. Anecdotal reports have suggested that serotonergic psychedelics administered in low doses on a chronic, intermittent schedule, so-called “microdosing”, might produce beneficial effects on mood, anxiety, cognition, and social interaction. Here, we test this hypothesis by subjecting male and female Sprague Dawley rats to behavioral testing following the chronic, intermittent administration of low doses of the psychedelic DMT. The behavioral and cellular effects of this dosing regimen were distinct from those induced following a single high dose of the drug. We found that chronic, intermittent, low doses of DMT produced an antidepressant-like phenotype and enhanced fear extinction learning without impacting working memory or social interaction. Additionally, male rats treated with DMT on this schedule gained a significant amount of body weight during the course of the study. Taken together, our results suggest that psychedelic microdosing may alleviate symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders, though the potential hazards of this practice warrant further investigation.

Mood and anxiety disorders are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, and antidepressants remain one of the most highly prescribed medications in the United States. Current therapeutic strategies for treating these disorders are slow-acting and prove to be ineffective for many patients. Thus, there is a critical need to develop new treatment strategies for these disorders.

Serotonergic psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin, and DMT have a long history of use as experimental therapeutics in the clinic for treating depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. However, it is unclear whether hallucinogenic doses of these drugs are required for them to produce therapeutic effects. Psychedelic microdosing—the practice of administering sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic compounds on a chronic, intermittent schedule—is rapidly gaining popularity due to its alleged antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. Despite the prevalence of psychedelic microdosing, there are essentially no peer-reviewed studies that have investigated the potential benefits and risks of this practice.

Psychedelics are potent psychoplastogens, and their effects on neural plasticity have been invoked to explain their long-lasting behavioral effects related to mood and anxiety. Previously, we observed that even a low dose of DMT caused changes in the frequency and amplitude of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents in the prefrontal cortex of rats that lasted long after the drug had been cleared from the body. Therefore, we hypothesized that administration of this low dose on a chronic, intermittent schedule might impact behaviors relevant to mood and anxiety that involve the PFC.

Here, we demonstrate that chronic (∼2 months), intermittent (every third day), low (1 mg/kg) doses of DMT facilitate fear extinction learning and reduce immobility in the forced swim test without producing the anxiogenic-like effects characteristic of a high dose (10 mg/kg). However, the former dosing regimen also significantly increases bodyweight in male rats. Taken together, the data presented here suggest that sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic compounds might possess value for treating and/or preventing mood and anxiety disorders. Despite the therapeutic potential of psychedelic microdosing, this practice is not without risks, and future studies need to better define the potential for negative neurobiological or metabolic repercussions.

*From the article here:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00692
 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Red wine compound resveratrol shows promise for treating anxiety

Neuroscience News | July 26, 2019

New research has revealed that resveratrol, which is found in red wine, displays anti-stress effects by blocking the expression of an enzyme related to the control of stress in the brain, according to a University of Buffalo-led study.

“Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders,” says Ying Xu, MD, Ph.D., co-lead author and research associate professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The study, published on July 15 in the journal Neuropharmacology, was also led by Xiaoxing Yin, Ph.D., professor at Xuzhou Medical University in China.

Protection against extreme stress

Resveratrol, which has been linked to a number of health benefits, is a compound found in the skin and seeds of grapes and berries. While research has identified resveratrol to have antidepressant effects, the compound’s relationship to phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4), an enzyme influenced by the stress hormone corticosterone, was unknown.

Corticosterone regulates the body’s response to stress. Too much stress, however, can lead to excessive amounts of the hormone and, ultimately, the development of depression or other mental disorders.

These unknown physiological relationships make drug therapy complex. Current antidepressants instead focus on serotonin or noradrenaline function in the brain, but only one-third of patients with depression enter full remission in response to these medications, says Xu.

In a study on mice, researchers revealed that PDE4, induced by excessive amounts of corticosterone, causes depression- and anxiety-like behavior.

The enzyme lowers cyclic adenosine monophosphatem, a messenger molecule that signals physiological changes such as cell division, change, migration and death in the body, leading to physical alterations in the brain.

Resveratrol displayed neuroprotective effects against corticosterone by inhibiting the expression of PDE4. The research lays the groundwork for the use of the compound in novel antidepressants. Although red wine contains resveratrol, consumption of alcohol carries various health risks, including addiction.

 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Microdosing DMT for anxiety

Cameron, Benson, DeFelice, Fiehn, Olson (2019)

Anecdotal reports have suggested that serotonergic psychedelics administered in low doses on a chronic, intermittent schedule, so-called “microdosing”, might produce beneficial effects on mood, anxiety, cognition, and social interaction. Here, we found that chronic, intermittent, low doses of DMT produced an antidepressant-like phenotype and enhanced fear extinction learning without impacting working memory or social interaction. Taken together, our results suggest that psychedelic microdosing may alleviate symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders, though the potential hazards of this practice warrant further investigation.

Psychedelics are potent psychoplastogens, and their effects on neural plasticity have been invoked to explain their long-lasting behavioral effects related to mood and anxiety. Previously, we observed that even a low dose of DMT caused changes in the frequency and amplitude of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that lasted long after the drug had been cleared from the body. Therefore, we hypothesized that administration of this low dose on a chronic, intermittent schedule might impact behaviors relevant to mood and anxiety that involve the PFC.

Here, we demonstrate that chronic (∼2 months), intermittent (every third day), low (1 mg/kg) doses of DMT facilitate fear extinction learning and reduce immobility in the forced swim test without producing the anxiogenic-like effects characteristic of a high dose (10 mg/kg). Taken together, the data presented here suggest that subpsychedelic doses of psychedelic compounds might possess value for treating and/or preventing mood and anxiety disorders. Despite the therapeutic potential of psychedelic microdosing, this practice is not without risks, and future studies need to better define the potential for negative neurobiological or metabolic repercussions.

Despite the potential risks associated with psychedelic microdosing, the data presented here suggest several exciting possibilities for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. First, a chronic intermittent dosing regimen lends itself to the potential prophylactic treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases. As acute doses of serotonergic psychedelics produce similar effects as an acute dose of the psychoplastogen ketamine, and ketamine has demonstrated promise for preventing stress-induced depression- and anxiety-related phenotypes in animal models, it will be interesting to see if psychedelic microdosing is also capable of preventing the development of depression and anxiety symptoms. Second, the ability of low doses of DMT to produce positive effects on mood and anxiety suggests that the perceptual effects of psychedelics can be decoupled from their therapeutic properties. This could lead to the development of non-psychedelic psychoplastogens with broad therapeutic potential and minimal risk for abuse. Taken together, our results encourage cautious optimism about the potential for psychedelic microdosing to produce beneficial effects on depression and anxiety.

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00692
 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Will smoking weed affect my anxiety?

VICE | Jul 23 2019

The stronger the cannabis you're smoking, the more likely you are to experience adverse side effects.

Weed and anxiety have always been entwined for me. My experience of getting high amounts to an unpleasantly increased heart rate, imagining that all my friends secretly think I'm a cunt, and berating myself via a cacophony of second-person internal monologues. It took me a bizarrely long time to realize this was not something I enjoyed, but when I eventually did, learning to say no when passed a spliff became the greatest gift I ever gave myself.

Since I never enjoyed weed in the first place, giving it up wasn’t difficult. But many weed users experience a more conflicted relationship with the drug and their anxiety. Weed use can become a symptom, cure, and underlying condition all rolled into one. Using it might worsen your anxiety—in a larger sense—but allow you to feel better in the short-term. This creates a vicious circle in which you're using a substance to alleviate the symptoms it causes.

If weed is consistently making you feel anxious, it might be worth thinking about giving it up altogether.

*From the article here:

 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Socially anxious people are taking MDMA to cope

by Shayla Love | VICE | Aug 28 2019

Chris* has never been comfortable in large social settings, he'd rather hang out in small groups of close friends. But as a young man living in the heart of London, he kept finding himself at big parties and outings, and drinking heavily to cope.

That is, until he tried MDMA. When he took the psychedelic for the first time at 18, "it felt like an answer to something," said Chris, who is now 37. "Everything suddenly felt very different. Quickly, it became the only way that I felt comfortable."

The anxiety that Chris experienced is very common. About 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with social anxiety—which is characterized by the fear of what others think about you, worrying they're judging you, that you'll mess up and say something stupid or wrong. It’s the second most-diagnosed anxiety disorder in the country.

While it's not unusual for people to turn to alcohol for liquid courage, a subset reach for harder drugs like MDMA, and other psychedelics, like magic mushrooms, ketamine, and LSD, for social lubrication. They say the drugs help them interact with people in a new, elevated way, whether it be at a party, concert, or work event.

The therapeutic effects of these drugs work best in tandem with therapy and guidance from an expert, and MDMA actually has a history of being paired with psychotherapy to achieve greater mental well-being. Today, since it and other psychedelics are illegal, people have been seeking out these benefits on their own, despite the risks of doing so.

But we are in the midst of what some are calling a psychedelic renaissance. The illegal drugs relegated to rave and hippie culture have been popping up in clinical trials at top universities all over the world. Psychedelics have garnered preliminary evidence that they could be effective in treating conditions like depression, PTSD, or anxiety. So what about social anxiety?

The increasing research on these compounds is leading to an understanding of what they do in the brain to create those warm fuzzy feelings, to explain what people like Chris have been noticing. “It shaped all my relationships, most of my friends," Chris said. "It’s hard to imagine what my life would have been like without it.”

The pharmaceutical company Merck first synthesized MDMA in 1912, but no one tried it until the 1970s. A chemist from California named Alexander Shulgin used himself as a guinea pig, writing of the experience, "I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. I have never felt so great or believed this to be possible…I am overcome by the profoundness of the experience.”

Shulgin shared the drug with a California psychotherapist, Leo Zeff, who had been using other psychedelics in his practice. Zeff subsequently gave MDMA to around 4,000 patients and trained more than 150 other therapists to use it in between 1977 and 1985. At a conference called MDMA in Psychotherapy, held right before MDMA became illegal in 1985, therapists discussed how MDMA had the ability to open a person up, make their emotions more intense, and give them access to closed-off memories and insights.

In the 1960s, psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo found that it helped people get along in group therapy settings, to trust and empathize with each other. Around the same time, the drug even began to be used in couples therapy for this reason. A psychiatrist named Rick Ingrasci treated 100 patients with MDMA, about a third of them couples. He wrote that “what MDMA does is actually remove the fear of being real, of being authentic with yourself and with other people.”

“You basically couldn’t design a molecule that is better for therapy than MDMA," psychiatrist Julie Holland told The Guardian this past April. And yet, in 1985, the drug was labeled as a Schedule 1 drug, despite protestation from many clinicians—essentially halting research on its therapeutic applications.

The first time Greg Ferenstein, a data scientist in San Francisco, took MDMA, he thought it would be like an exaggerated experience of alcohol or Adderall. Then he started to gush about his emotions, “talking about the most intimate things about my life, and expressing gratitude and appreciation for my friends in ways that I didn't completely understand,” Ferenstein said. “I felt this wave of happiness and warmth, and I wanted to show my friends how much I appreciated them, and talk about very deep things about myself.”

Though MDMA is still illegal, these recreational and euphoric effects are well-known. Ferenstein said he takes different psychedelics in all settings, like conferences for work, where there can be an anxiety around impressing people. He didn't consider himself an extremely socially anxious person before drugs, but they made him a better listener, more gracious, appreciative and less selfish. “One of the ways I know a psychedelic is working is when it’s harder to talk about myself,” he said.

The use of psychedelics for social anxiety “has been going on for a long time,” said Guy Jones, a chemist who helps run The Loop, a drug safety testing lab at festivals and events in the U.K. "MDMA is perhaps the most obvious and well-known for its pro-social effects, but I’ve also spoken to people who have found that psychedelics have left them with longer-lasting improvements while sober as a result of introspections they had while intoxicated."

There has been only one recent study specifically on social anxiety and the effects of MDMA, led by Alicia Danforth, a clinical psychologist who has researched MDMA and psilocybin-assisted therapy. At Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, she and her colleagues gave MDMA to a group of autistic adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment from 2018.

"Moderate to severe social anxiety is common in people with autism," Danforth said, "so they wanted to explore how MDMA could help with the social anxiety in a population with an increased need for treatment."

In her participants, she found that the ones who got MDMA in their therapy sessions had a fast and long-lasting decrease in their social anxiety symptoms. “We continue to hear from some participants who check in to tell us, years after treatment, that they are still experiencing less social anxiety at college, at work, in romantic relationships, and in everyday life,” she said.

The resurgence in research on MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD in healthy volunteers is revealing the mechanisms of how they could be achieving this: The drugs boost positive emotions while also lowering how much we perceive negative social cues, like angry and scared facial expressions, and they dull the pain of social rejection.

A study from 2013 found that ketamine and psilocybin change the electrical response of the brain to neutral and fearful faces. If people were shown a picture of a person with an angry or upset face, subjects on drugs didn’t recognize the negative emotions as easily. "This could be a factor for why if they were in a group or social setting, the social anxiety would be lessened,” said José Carlos Bouso, a psychologist and pharmacologist at the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS) in Spain.

Similarly, MDMA doesn’t just make people feel good, it may blunt their ability to notice the bad. In 2010, researchers found that MDMA lowered people's ability to detect threatening facial expressions. If people aren’t able to detect negative emotions, it might make social interactions more appealing.

Meanwhile, people with mood disorders like depression and anxiety tend to pay more attention to negative expressions and have heightened brain responses to threats. This may explain one of the ways other psychedelics, like magic mushrooms, have been helping in clinical trials of people with depression.

Psychedelics may also change the way we feel about being excluded socially. Scientists studied this through an activity called Cyberball, in which participants play a virtual game of toss and catch, but over the course of the game, get left out by other avatars in the group. Those with various mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, are more sensitive to this social exclusion.

On MDMA, people said that their mood and self-esteem wasn’t as affected by being skipped over in Cyberball. And since social pain, or the pain of being rejected or excluded, is associated with increased brain activity in certain regions, scientists found that taking mushrooms, reduced activation in several of them.

Many psychedelics lead to a reduction of activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain that processes emotions, including fear, Bouso said, and psychedelics interact with serotonin in the brain, a brain chemical associated with mood. MDMA also promotes the release of oxytocin, a hormone that affiliated with social behaviors, to create feelings of social affiliation while lowering negative responses to social rejection.

Not noticing negative social cues, not feeling excluded, a decrease in fear—the combination of all these effects could lead to more enjoyable, empathetic, and profound interactions with others. Translating them to a treatment for social anxiety requires an additional step, though: Not just taking psychedelics but getting talk therapy while you trip.

"We still have a lot to learn about psychedelics, and teasing apart which drug—MDMA, mushrooms, ketamine, or LSD—works best for specific kinds of anxiety, and when," Jones said. "The burgeoning state of the research means that these drugs can often get rolled up altogether, when their mechanisms of treatment and risks could be quite different."

Along with the impacts on the brain, MDMA might be an opportunity to practice social skills, Danforth said, like training wheels for interpersonal interactions. Then, when people remember what they were able to do while on MDMA, they can approach daily life with more confidence.

She wants to try a similar approach in adults without autism soon, the kind who regularly use alcohol to make it through social situations, like Chris before he tried MDMA. Danforth thinks that as far as substances go, psychedelics as a group could be more therapeutically productive than alcohol. Alcohol can temporarily reduce social fears and serve as a means of avoidance, she said, and it reduces the activity of the frontal lobe, where our brain makes decisions, plans, and performs reasoning. MDMA increases activity in the frontal lobe, while decreasing activity in the amygdala. While alcohol reduces our awareness, Buoso said, it can also increase violence and other non-social behaviors. “On the contrary, MDMA is a very peaceful substance,” he said.

“I don't see where people learn a whole lot about themselves or improve their capacity to function when they're intoxicated with alcohol,” said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and co-author on Danforth's paper. “On the other hand with MDMA within a therapeutic context, it's a learning experience and it's a guided learning experience and the individuals learn something about themselves."

Ferenstein still regularly takes psychedelics, and said he sees them as a tool for personal growth. “I’ve done them for conferences, I've done them for conference calls, birthdays, weddings," he said. "I like to do them in almost any situation I can get my hands on. I like to send emails on them, Tweet on them. I like to see how I am different in lots of different ways.”

"While taking psychedelics without the guidance of a professional can be dangerous, especially for those with a history of mental health issues, it makes sense that people are seeking them out,"
says Ben Sessa, a psychiatrist who studies and practices MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

“People are desperate for help,” Sessa said. “They are increasingly finding that traditional psychopharmacological options are letting them down, so they are turning to alternative options—even ones that are illegal and unlicensed.”

A crucial part of taking full advantage of these therapeutic properties is to combine these drugs with a psychotherapy habit in which many or most of the sessions don’t include drugs. “A great deal of support and integration is required to make sense of such experiences,” Sessa said. “When done in a facilitative environment, with adequate support, psychedelics can be very useful."

"Without a trained therapist, and in the kinds of settings that people often take these drugs, it can be impossible to push the experience in a healing direction. A dance floor is often not the right place to mentally relive traumatic childhood memories,"
he said.

Chris doesn't take drugs anymore, it's been about five or six years since he's touched anything. But his experiences stayed with him. "There’s definitely a very clear sense of unlocking a different way of thinking, a different sense of consciousness,” he said. “Even when the drug wears off, there is a lingering perspective on things that you can’t and don’t come back from.”

 

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Ketamine an effective treatment for anxiety*

by Dalton Hemsworth | Sep 19 2019

FDA initially approved ketamine as a painkiller, but many health centers are using it to treat mental disorders, such as anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and PTSD.

The reasons behind its growth in treating mental disorders are its effectiveness and fast action, with very few side effects.

Because of the gaps in modern treatment, ketamine is dominating as a more promising drug in the treatment of anxiety disorders, such as PTSD. Reflecting how widespread PTSD is, ketamine can produce a significant change for many patients who struggle with this debilitating condition.

Effects of modern medicines used to treat anxiety

Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal, but people struggling with anxiety disorders have extreme, persistent fear or worry about their daily activities. Anxiety disorders keep people from enjoying a healthy life, and constant worry can be overwhelming and disabling. Anxious people avoid events or places that remind them of the feelings that triggered their anxiety.

The medications used to treat anxiety are benzodiazepines (for short-term use), and SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) recommended for long-term anxiety treatment. Other common medications are tricyclic antidepressants, and SNRI (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor).

These drugs can offer temporary relief, but more often associated with side effects, significant consequences, and safety concerns. Others like benzodiazepines are very addictive and difficult to stop using without suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.

Some of these drugs do not treat anxiety disorders but only control their symptoms. Besides, researchers have raised many questions about the long-term use of these medicines.

For instance, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), benzodiazepines lose their curative anti-anxiety results after four to six months of regular use.

Additionally, recent studies published in JAMA Psychiatry found that health providers have overestimated the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating anxiety disorders, and in some cases, it is worse than placebo.

Furthermore, patients have difficulties when they need to stop using anxiety medications due to severe withdrawal symptoms, including relapse anxiety which could be worse than the original anxiety problem.

Also, patients who use these anxiety drugs may fail to respond well to treatment, forcing them to try various combinations until they find one that works best.

Ketamine a breakthrough treatment for anxiety

Fortunately, ketamine has proven very effective in treating anxiety disorders. The primary procedure used by health providers to treat anxiety is known as ketamine infusion therapy.

Ketamine therapy procedure has also shown remarkable results to patients struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder apart from treating anxiety disorders.

For patients who suffer from mild to severe anxiety, they may find it challenging to deal with daily life stressors. They may also fail to respond well to standard therapies, such as counseling and/or the use of sedatives.

However, with the introduction of ketamine infusion therapy, patients experience a calming effect on the nervous system and quick relief within hours.

Ketamine comprehensive benefits with its fast action and fewer side effects imply that health providers should include it as part of anxiety treatment medication. While other psychiatric drugs take more than a few weeks to start showing significant results in the body, ketamine's results are immediate.

Its quick response and other benefits indicate why it should be an exceptional part of anxiety treatment and only qualified professional should supervise its dose on patients

Ketamine infusion therapy

Many clinics use intravenous ketamine therapy to treat patients with anxiety since it works quickly with fewer side effects. Unlike prescription drugs which can take weeks or months to work and involve continuous monitoring to ensure the right dosage, ketamine infusion requires short schedule administration until symptoms disappear.

Many patients usually get relief from symptoms in just a few days after going through the second or third infusion process. Patients receiving ketamine therapy to treat anxiety can lower or eliminate dependency on prescription medication to control their symptoms. They may also have more available energy to adjust to lifestyle changes to keep anxiety away.

Although more research is still required to prove the long-term effectiveness of ketamine, most patients who have used ketamine for anxiety treatment have admired it due to its fast action, strength, and usefulness.

Currently, ketamine infusion therapy is an excellent potential remedy for anxiety disorders, with the ability to reduce its symptoms quickly in a sustainable way. Also, many upcoming clinics and treatment services are opting to offer ketamine treatment for anxiety.

*From the article here:

 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN

Ships in Distress in a Raging Storm c1690 by Ludolf Backhuysen


Ketamine useful in the treatment of severe social anxiety

The first placebo-controlled study of Ketamine's effect on social anxiety disorder has provides more evidence that the anesthetic could be helpful in severe cases.

"Many patients with anxiety continue to have impairing symptoms despite first-line talk therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) and first-line medications (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)," said study authors Jerome H. Taylor of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael H. Bloch of Yale University.

"Therefore, our research group thought it was important to find potential new treatments for anxiety. We chose to investigate Ketamine because several studies have found it to be helpful for anxiety symptoms in treatment-resistant depression."

A previous study on 12 adults with general anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder, which was published in 2017, found that Ketamine reduced their symptoms. But this study was not placebo-controlled.

The new double-blind, placebo-controlled trial tested the effects of intravenous Ketamine on 18 adults with social anxiety disorder. Ketamine alleviated symptoms of social anxiety as measured by the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale but not as measured by the self-reported Visual Analogue Scale for Anxiety.

Participants also reported increased social engagement in the days following Ketamine treatment, but this was not systematically tracked.

"Our study provided proof-of-concept that Ketamine-like agents may be useful for anxiety, Taylor and Bloch told PsyPost. Many pharmaceutical companies are working on developing medications that act like ketamine without the abuse potential as a treatment for depression, PTSD and suicidality. Our research suggests these medications may also prove useful for anxiety."

The findings were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Previous research has found that Ketamine produces a strong and rapid antidepressant effect in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. But Ketamine did not significantly improve depressive symptoms in Taylor and Bloch’s study.

This was "likely due the fact that in our study most patients had mild to moderate depression as opposed to the more severe treatment-resistant major depression studied in Ketamine clinical trials," the researchers wrote in their study.

Ketamine works by inhibiting NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) glutamate receptors in the brain. The drug also has euphoric and dissociative effects, making it a potential drug of abuse.

"Ketamine needs more data to show efficacy in anxiety, and even if effective probably should only be reserved for refractory and debilitating cases that have failed medication and CBT – for instance, adults homebound from agoraphobia, kids refusing to attend school due to anxiety," the researchers explained.

"Ketamine is a drug that can abused when given at higher doses over shorter periods of time than used in this study. As such, we consider that Ketamine should only be used in research studies related to anxiety at this time. If used for clinical purposes it should be restricted to hospital-like settings where the abuse potential is much lower."

http://www.psypost.org/2018/01/ketamine-prove-useful-treatment-severe-social-anxiety-50634
 
Last edited:

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Psilocybin investigated for its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties

Recently, psilocybin received recognition as a potential treatment for anxiety. A pilot study conducted explored the ability of psilocybin to reduce anxiety in individuals with advanced stage cancer. Although a small study and exploratory in nature, it suggested that psilocybin could have some benefit in reducing anxiety and improving mood in patients with a terminal illness.

In a study due to be published soon in Biological Psychiatry, a research group in Switzerland explored a potential mechanism for reduced anxiety after psilocybin administration. The authors, Kraehenmann et al., administered psilocybin or placebo to a group of participants. Then, they monitored the participants' brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the subjects completed a task that generally increases activation in an area of the brain called the amygdala. The task involved viewing a series of pictures; half of the pictures presented negative stimuli like a car accident, and the other half presented neutral pictures like everyday objects or scenes from daily life.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped collection of nuclei in the temporal lobe (there are actually two amygdalae--one in each hemisphere). Increased activity in the amygdala has been associated with emotional reactions, and especially with fear and anxiety. Hyperactivity in the amygdala has also been observed in depressed patients, and treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been found to reduce that hyperactivity. This suggests that increased activity in the amygdala may also play a role in symptoms of depression.

Kraehenmann et al. found that psilocybin administration improved mood and decreased anxiety. But the study also offered some insight into what might be causing that reduction in anxiety. After taking psilocybin (as compared to placebo), activity in the right amygdala was reduced while viewing negative images, and activity in the left amygdala was decreased in response to both negative and neutral images.

Psilocybin is thought to act as an agonist at serotonin receptors, meaning it increases serotonin transmission. Thus, it may be that antidepressants like SSRIs that act on serotonin--at least as part of their mechanism--have something in common with psilocybin. And, it suggests that perhaps psilocybin should continue to be investigated for its antidepressant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties.

https://www.neuroscientificallychall...d-the-amygdala
 

mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Joined
Aug 31, 2016
Messages
2,079
Location
Frostbite Falls, MN



Why psychedelics could be the future of anorexia treatment

by Tessa Love | Elemental.Medium.com | Nov 6 2019

A new trial by Johns Hopkins Medicine will study the effectiveness of psilocybin for eating disorder treatment.

In early September, the burgeoning field of psychedelic research got a long-sought-after dose of legitimacy: Johns Hopkins Medicine received $17 million in funding to launch the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. A first-of-its-kind facility for the United States, the center will study the efficacy of psychedelics — namely psilocybin (otherwise known as psychedelic mushrooms) — as a treatment for a range of mental health disorders. While much of the existing research around psychedelics and mental health focuses on the drugs’ ability to treat PTSD, depression, and addiction, the launch of the center brings a new and less-expected line of research: psychedelics as a treatment for anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia, as it’s more commonly known, is a mental illness affecting some 30 million Americans that manifests as an eating disorder, characterized by abnormally low body weight, body image distortion, and a fear of gaining weight. People with the condition often go to extreme measures to control their weight and eating habits, which can be dangerous: Complications from the disease can include heart problems, bone loss, anemia, and even death.

In fact, anorexia nervosa is responsible for more deaths than any other mental illness. This is due, in part, to the physically degrading nature of the illness, but it’s also attributable to the fact that medical professionals have yet to find an effective treatment for the disorder. As of now, the accepted treatment consists of supervised weight gain coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to challenge and change the thinking and behaviors behind the issue. The relapse rate for the treatment is up to 52%, according to a 2017 review.

Given psilocybin’s track record of treating people with other treatment-resistant mental health disorders, researchers at Johns Hopkins are cautiously hopeful that it could be the answer, and the team is in the recruiting phase of a landmark clinical trial to explore the possibility. The study will likely take two to three years to complete, from recruitment to analysis, but the trial itself will take about eight months.

In structure, the trial will look similar to the psilocybin trials Johns Hopkins has completed in the past for other disorders. After a month-long prep period, people in the study will have two psilocybin sessions two weeks apart, lasting six to eight hours each. The dose for the first session will be 20 milligrams (considered a typical dose for inducing a psychedelic experience) and the second dose will be either 20 or 25 milligrams, depending on the experience of the first session. "Though counselors are present, these sessions aren’t therapy-like. Instead, people are encouraged to 'go inside' their minds and 'be with their internal experience,' ” says Natalie Gukasyan, a post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins’ psychedelic research unit.

The sessions are followed by a next-day follow-up, then another follow-up a week later to discuss the experience. After the second session, people in the study will have a month-long “integration period,” where counselors help them integrate their psilocybin experiences into their understanding of their disease. The therapy will be based on motivational interviewing, a counseling method that aims to help people find the internal motivation to change behaviors by resolving insecurities. Finally, the people in the study will have a follow-up six months later to determine the effectiveness of the intervention on the eating disorder.

Though this is the first study that will examine psilocybin as a treatment for anorexia, early research with other psychedelics has suggested promise. A 2017 study interviewed 16 people with eating disorders who had participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, which involves drinking a psychedelic brew from the Amazon. Eleven of the people reported that the experience led to reductions in their symptoms, and 14 said the drug made them better able to regulate their emotional state. There are also several first-person accounts of people using psychedelics to help heal eating disorders.

In a 2013 review examining the failure of treatment options for eating disorders, researchers concluded that the resistance to treatment stemmed from the “ego-syntonic” nature of the illness, meaning many of the behaviors, values, and feelings behind the symptoms of the disease stem from the needs and goals of the ego. Dissolving the ego happens to be a hallmark of the psychedelic experience: In this altered state, people are often able to gain a new perspective on themselves in the world. If psilocybin works for eating disorders, researchers believe this may be the reason.

More often than not, people diagnosed with anorexia have other mental health conditions, according to Gukasyan, which means even if the psilocybin treatments don’t treat the disease directly, the experience could still be effective for the person’s overall mental health. “It tends to be more the rule than the exception that someone with anorexia is also struggling with anxiety, depression, OCD, or have some sort of trauma-related problems,” she says.

Though anorexia nervosa is classified as a mental illness, research is increasingly showing that there are physiological components to the disease as well, which, according to Gukasyan, means that “there are things that happen in the body chemically that keep people stuck in the patterns of starvation and excessive exercise. This includes hormone changes and potentially even genetics, as anorexia is often hereditary." Gukasyan is unsure of whether the psilocybin intervention can help address these physical aspects, but believes the trial is still worth a shot.

“It’s really a complicated illness,” she says. “And we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the laboratory when we give folks like this psilocybin. But we’re hoping it can be helpful.”

 
Top