What are psychedelics?
Psychedelics are a class of drugs that produce visual and auditory hallucinations, changes in sensory perception, mood and cognition. These compounds can also cause some physiological changes like heart rate, blood pressure, GI distress, flushing and more.
The classical psychedelics - like LSD, DMT and Psilocybin - are all serotonergic, meaning their main effects are through the serotonin receptors, specifically the serotonin 2A receptor. Other drugs that produce similar sensations, but act on different receptors, are also sometimes referred to as psychedelics. For example ketamine, a dissociative drug that acts on multiple targets, but primarily the glutamate receptor system can cause similar changes in sensory processing, mood or cognition but aren't considered classical psychedelics.
So what's all this hype about?
As we talked about in one of our first blog posts, psychedelics have gained increasing media attention for their ability to treat a myriad of psychiatric disorders from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder to substance use disorders. While some of the research is promising, these studies are still in the beginning stages and most of them have not been replicated by multiple groups. It's understandable that a new potential treatment for people suffering from mental health diagnoses is something to be excited about but over hyping the scientific findings without discussing the dark side can be dangerous.
This hype could cause a myriad of potential issues when those who are inexperienced with psychedelics or for those who are desperately seeking help, for example:
Increase of adverse drug effects or mixing with other compounds
Trusting false shamans, con-artists or rogue therapists that may take advantage of a naive user either physically, financially or mentally
Bad trip outcomes for those who have not tripped or for those who have had traumatic experiences
Potential psychosis, mental breakdowns or paranoia for those who are already experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms or have family history of mental health concerns
As Dr. Yaden put's it in his editorial piece... the psychedelic hype bubble is about to burst.
There is so much we still don’t know, good or bad.
Psychedelics have been increasingly investigated for everything under the sun. A study by Siegal et al 2021 looks at how many registered clinical trials around the world are happening with psychedelics. In the figure from the study, there's a HUGE spike in studies as of 2020, most of which are most likely currently underway before the next spike comes along.
Out of these studies noted, the majority are Phase I or II trials with MDMA and psilocybin. See below for part of Table 2.Trial Characteristics stratified by trial phase. The first column is Phase I, followed by Phase I/II, Phase II, Phase III and other. As noted, most studies are focused on post traumatic stress disorder.
Remember, the research is still in early stages and it's up to readers and other scientists to read critically and not contribute to the hype. Check out some articles below on some of the conditions mentioned above and remember... If it works for everything, then it works for nothing.
P.S. if you can't access any of these articles please reach out to us and we can provide with you PDFs via email.
Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7643046/
Efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted treatment for major depressive disorder: Prospective 12-month follow-up
Trial of Psilocybin versus Escitalopram for Depression
Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial
Reduction in social anxiety after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with autistic adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6208958/
Post-traumatic stress disorder
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD: Are memory reconsolidation and fear extinction underlying mechanisms?
Effects of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Conditioned Fear Extinction and Retention in a Crossover Study in Healthy Subjects
Percentage of Heavy Drinking Days Following Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy vs Placebo in the Treatment of Adult Patients With Alcohol Use Disorder
Long-term Follow-up of Psilocybin-facilitated Smoking Cessation
Associations between classic psychedelics and opioid use disorder in a nationally-representative U.S. adult sample
Effects of Acute and Repeated Treatment with Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptor Agonist Hallucinogens on Intracranial Self-Stimulation in Rats
Serotonergic psychedelic treatment for obesity and eating disorders: potential expectations and caveats for emerging studies
Traumatic Brain Injury
Serotonergic Hyperactivity as a Potential Factor in Developmental, Acquired and Drug-Induced Synesthesia
A low dose of lysergic acid diethylamide decreases pain perception in healthy volunteers