Summary: A recent study suggests that classic psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin could be more effective pain relievers than opioids, with the potential to increase efficacy over time without developing tolerance. This contrasts sharply with opioids, which often lead to tolerance and addiction.
LSD and Psilocybin: Potential Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Management
The study, focusing on nerve pain research, indicates that serotonin-targeted drugs like LSD and psilocybin increasingly relieve discomfort with repeated use. This finding is particularly significant as it contrasts with the effects of opioids, which are known for increasing tolerance, addiction, and life-threatening respiratory depression.
Unlike opioids that act directly on the central nervous system to block pain signals, LSD and psilocybin do not immediately modulate pain receptors. However, their serotonergic action may give them an advantage in treating nociplastic conditions like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). These psychedelics could address both physical agony and the origins of emotional anguish with increasing efficacy over time.
Historically, between 1964 and 1977, small-scale clinical trials and case reports showed LSD as a powerful painkiller, even outperforming opioids for cancer and gangrene. Today, people are self-medicating cluster headaches with LSD and psilocybin, often achieving better results than conventional treatments.
Psychedelics are believed to rewire the brain, changing its relationship to emotional strife and making it less sensitive to physical pain signals. This neural adjustment could be crucial for patients whose pain-detecting neurons are triggered by mild stimuli. Chronic pain involves changes in the brain network associated with self-focused thoughts, known as the “default mode network” (DMN). Psychedelics interact with serotonin receptors in the DMN, potentially offering a new way to treat chronic pain and emotional distress.
The study also highlights the role of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and inflammation in chronic pain and depression. Psychedelics could boost BDNF levels and reduce inflammation, promoting the growth and connection of brain cells.
The most exciting aspect of this research is the theory that LSD and psilocybin might become more effective as painkillers over time. This contrasts with opioids, where tolerance often leads to addiction as people seek higher doses for the same effect.
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