A psychedelic study

by DGO Staff

Can psilocybin help treat certain types of eating disorders? Researchers seem to think so

The impact of psychedelic usage on those with mental health disorders has long been a topic of discussion, and for good reason. There’s some evidence that certain types of psychedelic usage could tip certain users who are predisposed to mental health issues like schiophrenia into full-blown crisis mode, but psychedelics like magic mushrooms and MDMA have also had an incredibly positive impact — both anecdotally and scientifically proven — on other users, like veterans suffering from chronic post traumatic stress disorder. But what impact can psychedelics have on those suffering from certain types of eating disorders, like anorexia?
That’s what the scientific community is trying to determine as we speak. Anorexia nervosa is a debilitating mental health disorder characterized by an irrational fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. The impact of this condition can be severe and, at times, even fatal. However, recent groundbreaking research suggests that there may be new hope on the horizon in the form of psilocybin-assisted therapy.

The study: A glimmer of promise
In a small study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, psilocybin, the primary psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, was combined with therapy to treat ten women with anorexia nervosa. The results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine, showed that this combination therapy was both safe and effective for most participants.

The study participants experienced a single dose of psilocybin while receiving support from trained therapists. Remarkably, 90% of the women reported
a more positive outlook on life, and 70% stated that their overall quality of life had improved significantly. Moreover, the profound experience was rated as one
of their top five most meaningful in life by 80% of the participants. Even more encouragingly, four of the ten patients achieved remission of their symptoms after three months of the treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa: The battle against the deadly disorder
Anorexia nervosa is an incredibly challenging and chronic condition, particularly prevalent among young women. Current treatments primarily focus on medical interventions to restore healthy body weight and various forms of talk therapy to address behavioral and self-esteem issues. The disorder’s impact can lead to severe health complications, including heart problems, bone loss, anemia, and, in some tragic cases, even death.
Rebecca Park, an associate professor at the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry, emphasizes the urgent need for novel treatments as anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric disorders and remains notoriously difficult to treat and recover from.

Promising step forward: Psilocybin’s potential
The study’s findings provide an intriguing avenue for exploring new treatments for anorexia nervosa, as there is currently no approved medicine specifically designed for this disorder. While the researchers acknowledged the need for further studies to confirm their preliminary results, the potential of psilocybin-assisted therapy cannot be underestimated.

Dr. Walter Kaye, senior author and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, hypothesized that psilocybin may reverse altered serotonin function in anorexia nervosa, potentially helping patients develop a new perspective on their symptoms and behaviors.

Exploring the psychedelic renaissance
The use of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in clinical research has been gaining traction in recent years. Studies have shown their therapeutic potential in addressing serious mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, substance misuse disorders, and anxiety.
In January, a California biopharmaceutical company reported positive results from a clinical trial investigating the use of MDMA for PTSD treatment. Similarly, research published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 demonstrated that psilocybinassisted psychotherapy was effective and fast-acting in treating major depressive disorder. Another study in 2016 revealed that psilocybin treatment significantly reduced depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

Caution and hope: Navigating the future
While the recent study on psilocybin-assisted therapy for anorexia nervosa shows promise, it is essential to approach these findings with caution. Dr. Alexandra Pike, a lecturer in mental health at the University of York, cautions against concluding that psilocybin will have the same profound effects on anorexia nervosa as it has demonstrated in other mental health conditions.

The road ahead for psilocybin-assisted therapy in treating anorexia nervosa requires further research and exploration. The study’s limitations, such as a lack of diversity in participants and the absence of a placebo-controlled group, highlight the need for more extensive and diverse trials to establish the therapy’s efficacy and safety.

Hope in the darkness
As we navigate the uncharted territory of mental health treatments, the study on psilocybin-assisted therapy offers a glimpse of hope in the battle against anorexia nervosa. This innovative approach has the potential to transform the lives of individuals burdened by this severe disorder.

The path ahead may be filled with challenges, but the prospect of finding a safe and effective treatment for anorexia nervosa makes the journey worth undertaking. With further research, dedication, and compassion, we can inch closer to a future where anorexia nervosa is no longer a life sentence, but a condition that can be managed and overcome.

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