How prohibition delayed the discovery
The abrupt prohibition of psychedelic research lasted decades. What did we miss? Are there direct pharmacological effects of psychedelics on autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, chronic low-grade infections?
The recent paper originated from the University of Oslo, Norway, and published in Immunology Letters Journal discussed the validity of adding psychedelics to the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. “Contradictory to this scheduling decision, research currently suggests that class psychedelic compounds do not show evidence of addiction potential and exhibit anti-addiction properties while also appearing to be generally physiologically safe, non-toxic, and exhibiting minimal individual and societal harms,” postulated the research team from Oslo. The team focused on the potential of using psychedelics for the treatments of autoimmune diseases.
Chronic inflammation is pivotal to an autoimmune disease. The current evidence on how psychedelics may modulate the immune system to alleviate inflammation is still lacking. But the field has been rapidly accelerating.
Here are some early biochemical clues
Blood inflammatory biomarkers were measured in 28 depressed and 45 healthy individuals treated with psychedelic substances. The results emerged in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and demonstrate significant lowering of inflammation biochemical blood markers (and depression score) 48 hours after the psychedelic treatment.
Inflammatory markers were tested in preclinical studies, and the results provide some early evidence that psychedelics suppressed the proliferation of B-lymphocytes and increased the number of Natural Killer cells.
Chronic infections often go side-by-side with autoimmune conditions.
Early data suggests that some plant-derived psychedelics may have activities against viruses from Lyme disease to herpes family. Currently, the exact mechanism is unknown on how psychedelic plants exert antifungal, antimicrobial, or antibiotic activity. Psychedelics may indirectly change the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract by altering vagal nerve tone and stress response. The change may further improve enigmatic conditions such as increased gut permeability, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and gut dysbiosis known as chronic low-grade infections.
It is tempting to speculate that a therapeutic psychedelic experience may create biochemical cascades in human physiology. The proposed psychological and neurological benefits are intertwined with the enteric nervous system functioning and may result in positive downstream changes in the ecology of microbial populations. The psychedelic may treat the complex, often uncurable life-long chronic conditions by offering an efficacious strategy to manage. One day new approaches may even potentially reverse and resolve harmful autoimmunity.
Ideally, the goal would be to undo the body’s maladaptive chronic stress responses, inflammatory pathways, immune modulation, and enteric microbiome populations — unlike any current conventional treatments available today.
Human clinical trials are already available, and many will soon become available. The physiological effect of serotonergic psychedelics in humans is a revolution, and the new discoveries are now closer than ever before.