After languishing for decades from legal restrictions and stigma, research into psychedelic drugs is exploding – with the encouragement of the Food and Drug Administration. Recent clinical trial successes suggest some long-banned drugs could soon be authorized as treatments for debilitating illnesses. Yet because of these drugs’ history, FDA approval would be just one important step in a complex process to transform these compounds into therapies. Incorporating psychedelic drugs into clinical practice will require peeling back multiple layers of legal prohibition, clarifying prescribing guidelines, and developing treatment models that work for drug-makers, physicians, and payers.
Background: Treatment resistant depression (TRD) is defined as a major depressive episode that does not improve in response to at least two trials, each of a different class, of antidepressant medication. Pharmacotherapy of TRD with low dose ketamines has been shown as relatively successful in recent studies. Effects of such pharmacotherapy can be augmented by combining ketamine with psychotherapeutic interventions such as Zdyb’s Therapeutic Reset of Internal Processes (TRIP) protocol. Method: 10 adult TRD patients (4 men, 6 women) were treated with low dose ketamines and were also receiving psychotherapeutic intervention as per TRIP protocol. All patients were administered the Patient Health Questionnaire, module 9 (PHQ9) which is a measure of a major depressive episode. The PHQ9 was administered twice: on baseline (i.e., prior to treatment) and after the treatment. Results: On average, our patients fell in the moderate range of severity with respect to symptoms of TRD at baseline (pre-TRIP) as by their mean PHQ9 score of 17.9, (SD = 5.1). Their mean PHQ9 score decreased post TRIP treatment to 9.5 (SD = 6.6): the difference is significant in a t-test, t(10) = 4.3172, p = 0002 (two-tailed). The magnitude of the decrease amounts to 46.9% of the average baseline score. Discussion and Conclusions: Our patients experienced significant reductions in symptoms of TRD in this pilot study. Research studies are now needed with control groups of TRD patients on a waiting list or also of those receiving only the ketamine pharmacotherapy
Previous research showed acute psychedelic effects were associated with decreases in racial trauma (RT) symptoms among black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Among samples comprised primarily of white participants, positive outcomes of psychedelic experiences have been mediated by increases in psychological flexibility. Therefore, we examined whether changes in psychological flexibility from before to after a psychedelic experience mediated the relationship between acute psychedelic effects and changes in RT symptoms among BIPOC.
Promising initial data indicate that the glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine may be beneficial in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here, we explore the neural correlates of ketamine-related changes in PTSD symptoms, using a rich battery of functional imaging data (two emotion-processing tasks and one task-free scan), collected from a subset of participants of a randomized clinical trial of repeated-dose intravenous ketamine vs midazolam (total N = 21). In a pre-registered analysis, we tested whether changes in an a priori set of imaging measures from a target neural circuit were predictive of improvement in PTSD symptoms, using leave-one-out cross-validated elastic-net regression models (regions of interest in the target circuit consisted of the dorsal and rostral anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior hippocampus, anterior insula, and amygdala). Improvements in PTSD severity were associated with increased functional connectivity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala during emotional face-viewing (change score retained in model with minimum predictive error in left-out subjects, standardized regression coefficient [β] = 2.90). This effect was stronger in participants who received ketamine compared to midazolam (interaction β = 0.86), and persisted following inclusion of concomitant change in depressive symptoms in the analysis model (β = 0.69). Improvement following ketamine was also predicted by decreased dorsal anterior cingulate activity during emotional conflict regulation, and increased task-free connectivity between the vmPFC and anterior insula (βs = −2.82, 0.60). Exploratory follow-up analysis via dynamic causal modelling revealed that whilst improvement in PTSD symptoms following either drug was associated with decreased excitatory modulation of amygdala→vmPFC connectivity during emotional face-viewing, increased top-down inhibition of the amygdala by the vmPFC was only observed in participants who improved under ketamine. Individuals with low prefrontal inhibition of amygdala responses to faces at baseline also showed greater improvements following ketamine treatment. These preliminary findings suggest that, specifically under ketamine, improvements in PTSD symptoms are accompanied by normalization of hypofrontal control over amygdala responses to social signals of threat.
In the last fifteen years, psychedelic substances, such as LSD and psilocybin, have regained legitimacy in clinical research. In the general population as well as across various psychiatric populations, mental well-being has been found to significantly improve after a psychedelic experience. Mental well-being has large socioeconomic relevance, but it is a complex, multifaceted construct. In this naturalistic observational study, a comprehensive approach was taken to assessing well-being before and after a taking a psychedelic compound to induce a ‘psychedelic experience’. Fourteen measures of well-being related constructs were included in order to examine the breadth and specificity of change in well-being. This change was then analysed to examine clusters of measures changing together. Survey data was collected from volunteers that intended to take a psychedelic. Four key time points were analysed: one week before and two weeks, four weeks, and two years after the experience (N = 654, N = 315, N = 212, and N = 64 respectively). Change on the included measures was found to cluster into three factors which we labelled: 1) ‘Being well’, 2) ‘Staying well’, and 3) ‘Spirituality’. Repeated Measures Multivariate Analysis of Variance revealed all but the spirituality factor to be improved in the weeks following the psychedelic experience. Additional Mixed model analyses revealed selective increases in Being Well and Staying Well (but not Spirituality) that remained statistically significant up to two years post-experience, albeit with high attrition rates. Post-hoc examination suggested that attrition was not due to differential acute experiences or mental-health changes in those who dropped out versus those who did not. These findings suggest that psychedelics can have a broad, robust and sustained positive impact on mental well-being in those that have a prior intention to use a psychedelic compound. Public policy implications are discussed.
Healthful behaviours such as maintaining a balanced diet, being physically active and refraining from smoking have major impacts on the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other serious conditions. The burden of the so-called 'lifestyle diseases'-in personal suffering, premature mortality and public health costs-is considerable. Consequently, interventions designed to promote healthy behaviours are increasingly being studied, e.g., using psychobiological models of behavioural regulation and change. In this article, we explore the notion that psychedelic substances such as psilocybin could be used to assist in promoting positive lifestyle change conducive to good overall health. Psilocybin has a low toxicity, is non-addictive and has been shown to predict favourable changes in patients with depression, anxiety and other conditions marked by rigid behavioural patterns, including substance (mis)use. While it is still early days for modern psychedelic science, research is advancing fast and results are promising. Here we describe psychedelics' proposed mechanisms of action and research findings pertinent to health behaviour change science, hoping to generate discussion and new research hypotheses linking the two areas. Therapeutic models including psychedelic experiences and common behaviour change methods (e.g., Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Motivational Interviewing) are already being tested for addiction and eating disorders. We believe this research may soon be extended to help promote improved diet, exercise, nature exposure and also mindfulness or stress reduction practices, all of which can contribute to physical and psychological health and well-being.
Psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) offer a powerful window into the function of the human brain and mind, by temporarily altering subjective experience through their neurochemical effects. The RElaxed Beliefs Under Psychedelics (REBUS) model postulates that 5-HT2a receptor agonism allows the brain to explore its dynamic landscape more readily, as suggested by more diverse (entropic) brain activity. Formally, this effect is theorized to correspond to a reduction in the energy required to transition between different brain-states, i.e. a “flattening of the energy landscape.” However, this hypothesis remains thus far untested. Here, we leverage network control theory to map the brain’s energy landscape, by quantifying the energy required to transition between recurrent brain states. In accordance with the REBUS model, we show that LSD reduces the energy required for brain-state transitions, and, furthermore, that this reduction in energy correlates with more frequent state transitions and increased entropy of brain-state dynamics. Through network control analysis that incorporates the spatial distribution of 5-HT2a receptors, we demonstrate the specific role of this receptor in flattening the brain’s energy landscape. Also, in accordance with REBUS, we show that the occupancy of bottom-up states is increased by LSD. In addition to validating fundamental predictions of the REBUS model of psychedelic action, this work highlights the potential of receptor-informed network control theory to provide mechanistic insights into pharmacological modulation of brain dynamics.