Research Suggests Psychedelics Could Be Used To Treat Chronic Pain

Psychedelics Chronic Pain - GCI Content Hub - Global Cannabis Intelligence

A study evaluating the effect of psychedelics on patient perceptions of chronic pain opens the door for clinical trials.

A “pre-trial” study by Imperial College London lays the groundwork for future clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of psychedelics as a treatment for chronic pain.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for longer than three months. It is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with an estimated 20% of the global population living with chronic pain, 60% of whom experience comorbid depression. Severely debilitating chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia have unclear causes and currently available treatments are largely unsuccessful.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy has recently been found to be effective in treating a variety of mental health issues and has historically been reported to be useful in treating pain.

Researchers conducted open interviews with 11 individuals who reported self-medicating with psychedelics to manage their chronic pain, to observe how psychedelics may change a person’s perception of pain. On average, participants had suffered from chronic pain for a decade.

While study authors note the qualitative nature of their work and make no claims as to causality or generalisability, results show that pain reduced substantially during and after psychedelic experiences.

Nine participants testified to the substances’ analgesic effects, reporting significant or complete reductions in pain during the experience. Most reported a gradual return towards baseline pain scores following the treatment.

“Positive Reframing and Somatic Presence were identified as playing a role in improvements in mental wellbeing, relationship with pain and physical discomfort,” wrote Julia Bornemann, study author and research assistant at Imperial College London.

While direct pain relief ranged from none to 6 months, psychological effects were longer lasting, with some participants reporting indefinite psychological changes such as positively reframed perspectives. All contributors hoped that psychedelic-assisted therapy would be added to the canon of chronic pain treatments.

Study authors write that the initial research has highlighted the importance of “adequate preparation” for patients undergoing psychedelic experiences, in order to understand the potential physical and emotional intensity of the process. Further, integration and aftercare are also viewed as essential to the perceived longevity of therapeutic benefit.

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