Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Scientists think psychedelics might be able to replace current treatments such as opioids.
Psychedelics include a range of drugs but the two most common are psilocybin and LSD.
Research demonstrates that small amounts, or somethings not so small, can help treat chronic pain.
About 40 million US adults suffer from pain
Research is on-going with support from major donors and activists.
The potential benefit of psychedelic drugs is so great that a number of research groups around the world are actively studying their potential effects on chronic pain. Some of the results suggest that psilocybin may help reduce chronic pain by altering the way the body responds to pain signals.
Psilocybin is the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms, and it's been used to treat conditions including anxiety, depression and addiction. Now scientists want to add potential pain management to that list.
LSD has also been suggested as a treatment for pain. And like psilocybin, some doctors are beginning to recommend it for conditions including anxiety and depression as well. Recently, a study published in the journal Pain found that long-term users of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin experienced reduced pain ratings and increases in feelings of empathy and openness.
Psilocybin side-effects are associated with naturally occurring feelings of empathy, clarity, relaxation, and pleasure. Studies have found psilocybin can effectively treat anxiety and depression in patients with terminal illness. And an investigation into one particular type of psychedelic, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), has found it to be effective in relieving chronic pain.
An estimated 40 million people in the US suffer from chronic pain, according to the Center for Disease Control. This condition, which is not fully understood, can cause a variety of problems, from chronic fatigue to an increased risk of becoming an alcoholic.
One of the effects of chronic pain is expensive health care. People who have it are five times more likely to have medical debt than those who don't. The good news is that there are some natural substances out there that can help treat chronic pain, and research has shown that they could work even if you've never tried them before. Will people start growing their own medicine? Maybe.
And don't forget about the carnage inflicted by the opioid crises too.
"It is a scourge across our country. A person dies every 12-and-a-half minutes from an opioid overdose and that’s far too many. Especially when we know that many of those deaths can be prevented. - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Adams
"It is a scourge across our country. A person dies every 12-and-a-half minutes from an opioid overdose and that’s far too many. Especially when we know that many of those deaths can be prevented," said the US Surgeon General Dr. Adams
It's no exaggeration to say that we are currently facing the worst drug crisis in modern U.S. history. Overdose deaths involving opioids more than tripled between 2002 and 2013, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research is continuing on psilocybin. Preliminary results show that psilocybin can be used to reduce painful muscle spasms and relieve anxiety in patients with chronic pain who have failed other treatments.
The FDA has approved a small trial for psilocybin therapy to treat PTSD in military veterans. And has been designated as a "breakthrough therapy" for depression and treatment-resistant depression by the US Food and Drug Administration. The drug is not yet recommended for general use but the results are exciting.
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