New Study: LSD and Psilocybin Give Hope to Chronic Pain Sufferers

I haven’t got time for the pain,
I haven’t got room for the pain,
I haven’t the need for the pain…

Carly Simon’s famous lament seems to be guiding clinical studies into the pain-relieving properties of psychedelics. Scientific research into the medical efficacy of LSD, psilocybin, and other “classic” psychedelics is on a fast track. As I’ll explain, big money is at stake.

A new study suggests that LSD and psilocybin hold enormous therapeutic promise for addressing chronic physical pain. This recently published analysis is part of the “psychedelic renaissance” that signifies a profound shift in societal attitudes toward psychedelics. Acid and “shrooms” have graduated from tie-dyed t-shirts to white lab coats.

Published in the November 6 issue of the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ), the study delves into the historical context and evolving understanding of LSD and psilocybin’s modes of action. It not only asserts their capacity to diminish persistent pain but also highlights their ability to enhance the management of the pain experience.

The SAMJ review also emphasizes that the pain-relieving effects of these hallucinogenic substances appear to intensify with repeated treatment, a contrast to opioids, which exhibit diminished therapeutic efficacy over time (as well as harmful side effects).

The review underscores how classic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, interact with the central nervous system’s 5-HT2A receptors. Psilocybin’s impact on these receptors, the study notes, mirrors LSD’s effects on cognition, emotional processing, self-awareness, and pain perception, thus underlining the potential therapeutic value of both substances for individuals grappling with pain.

Notably, trials of LSD and psilocybin for chronic pain reveal a favorable safety profile, with minimal physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms compared to other analgesic agents.

While both substances belong to the same alkaloid family, their histories diverge significantly. LSD, first synthesized in 1938, boasts a shorter usage history, spanning less than a century. In contrast, psilocybin’s usage extends back thousands of years, gaining popularity in the late 1950s in the modern U.S., while LSD rose to prominence in the ’60s and ’70s.

The study acknowledges that despite no reported direct mortalities or withdrawals from chronic use of either substance, the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1971 caused the cessation of clinical research into psilocybin and LSD. The association of these psychedelic substances with counterculture and anti-government activists resulted in a prolonged abandonment of research, despite earlier evidence pointing to therapeutic benefits.

President Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” launched in 1971, put an abrupt end to what had been promising avenues of psychedelic research. But that’s all changing, as Nixon’s drug crusade gets increasingly discredited and abandoned.

During the contemporary resurgence in psychedelic research, several studies indicate that psilocybin and LSD can alleviate cluster headaches, end-of-life depression in cancer patients, and chronic pain. Even self-medicated patients are experiencing decreased pain during and up to several days after psychedelic sessions.

The SAMJ study highlights the lasting emotional effects of psychedelics on individuals, including greater body and mental self-awareness, and psychological flexibility leading to feelings of hope over despair.

The South African review argues that the analgesic action of LSD and psilocybin via cortical processing makes a compelling case for their use in chronic pain. Importantly, the analgesic effect of 5-HT1A/2A increases with repeated treatment, contrasting with opioid receptor stimulation.

In conclusion, the South African authors stress the detrimental impact of U.S. prohibition on psychedelic research, noting its global repercussions. The psychedelic rebirth, led by global researchers and clinicians, aims to reintroduce research into these alkaloids to address the mental health and chronic pain challenges of the 21st century.

Huge profit potential…

Psychedelics are on track to capture a major share of the global antidepressants market, which is a hugely profitable juggernaut (see graphic).

Cannabis is part of the equation. Separate studies indicate that marijuana compounds offer a multidimensional approach to pain compared to opioids, with holistic effects on sleep, focus, and emotional well-being.

Notably, a recent study supports the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating dental pain as an alternative to opioids.

“Our results indicate that a single dose of CBD is as potent as current analgesic regimens and can manage emergency dental pain effectively,” the authors wrote in the study, published in November in the Journal of Dental Research. They noted that their work appears to be “the first randomized clinical trial testing CBD for managing emergency dental pain.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently proposed a significant increase in 2023 production quotas for marijuana compounds and psychedelics, emphasizing support for research and clinical trials. In response to criticism, the DEA retreated from a proposed ban on psychedelic compounds, marking a win for the scientific community.

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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