A recent study published in Scientific Reports suggests that individuals who have used traditional psychedelics may be at lower risk for cardiac disease. While these new findings are exciting, they serve to highlight the need for further research into the potential medical uses of psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, and ketamine.
“In our previous research, we have found associations between lifetime classic psychedelic use and lower odds of being overweight or obese as well as lower odds of having hypertension in the past year, both of which are risk factors of cardiometabolic disease,” reports study author Ottos Simonsson Ph.D., of Oxford University.
In another article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology earlier in the year, research posited “that psychedelic substances such as psilocybin could be used to assist in promoting positive lifestyle changes conducive to good health.” Simonsson notes that the use of traditional psychedelics has been linked to spontaneous, positive lifestyle and health changes such as reduced alcohol consumption, lowered or eliminated the use of tobacco products, and increased exercise.
Simonsson’s study also indicates that traditional psychedelics may improve mental health conditions associated with cardiometabolic disease. When administered in a safe and supportive setting, these drugs can cause neurogenesis, which strengthens and creates new neural pathways in the brain. Neurogenesis can help users form new positive associations and engender new modes of thinking that can lead to the adoption of positive lifestyle changes.
During the study, Simonsson also reported that psychedelics have strong anti-inflammatory properties as well as immunomodulatory properties. These anti-inflammatory properties could be a factor in psychedelics’ purported ability to fight cardiac disease. Coupled with their known effects on the body’s serotonin systems, this could indicate that traditional psychedelics are a strong candidate for developing new heart disease treatments.
“Lifetime classic psychedelic use was uniquely associated with a 23% lower odds of heart disease in the past year and a 12% lower odds of diabetes in the past year. Among the three main classes of classic psychedelics, neither lifetime tryptamine use, lifetime LSD use, nor lifetime phenethylamine use was uniquely associated with heart disease or diabetes in the past year when simultaneously entered into the regression models, though the association between lifetime tryptamine use and diabetes in the past year approached conventional levels of significance.” — Simonsson, O., Osika, W., Carhart-Harris, R. et al. Associations between lifetime classic psychedelic use and cardiometabolic diseases. Sci Rep 11, 14427 (2021).
While not concrete, these initial results provide an excellent argument for further study into the potential health benefits of using psychedelics. This research also aligns with results gathered by Dr. Steve Mandel, President of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, who has treated over 600 patients with low dose ketamine infusions, nearly all of which have reported making positive health and life changes after treatment.
If shown to be effective, psychedelics could present novel new treatments for cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States and around the globe. Unfortunately, the current Schedule 1 Status of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD make it difficult for researchers to conduct studies.
However, other traditional psychedelic substances such as ketamine have been approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration and have been used everywhere from hospitals to battlefields since 1970. While there have been few studies directly linking ketamine use to reduced rates of heart disease, it is an exciting potential avenue of research given the relative ease with which researchers can obtain the drug.
David Connell is a U.S. Air Force Veteran writer and author of Cooking with Magic: The Psilocybin Cookbook. David holds a B.A. in Communications and Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Connect with him about drug policy reform, his thoughts on research in novel psychedelic therapies, creative writing, and his unabashed love for Science Fiction on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Simonsson, O., Osika, W., Carhart-Harris, R. et al. Associations between lifetime classic psychedelic use and cardiometabolic diseases. Sci Rep 11, 14427 (2021).