New Study Suggests Psychedelics Can Reduce Opioid Addiction

We should be concerned about the rising opioid epidemic. In the United States, enough opioids are prescribed for every adult to have a bottle of pills. Opioid painkillers can come with some severe side effects, including addiction. It’s estimated that a total of between 26.4 million and 30 million people worldwide suffer from opioid dependence. A new study suggests a radical new approach to opioid addiction: psychedelic therapy.

Can Psychedelics Reduce Opioid Addiction?

Of all of the psychedelic plants and fungi out there, it’s safe to say that cannabis is relatively mild. Research has shown that cannabis has potent pain-fighting properties, and several studies have shown that patients choose cannabis as an alternative to prescription painkillers, like opioids.

But what about other psychedelics? The substances have been taboo and frowned upon for decades, but mind-bending compounds are getting another chance at fame with some impressive recent research. Over the past two years, reports have come out which suggest that using psychedelics sometime in your life is associated with:

  • Reduced risk of domestic violence
  • Reduced psychological distress and suicidal thinking
  • Fewer prescriptions for psychiatric medications 
  • Reduced outpatient treatments for mental health issues 

The idea that a psychedelic substance can improve mental health may sound just a little too radical for some. Still, a recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that the mind-bending compounds may be beneficial in another surprising therapeutic area to curb opioid addiction.

The study found that consuming LSD or psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms is associated with a decreased risk of illegal opioid abuse.

The study found that psychedelic consumption was associated with a 27% reduction in opioid dependence over the past year. The substances were also associated with a whopping 40% reduction in opioid addiction.

This research is supported by an earlier review of a different substance, alcohol. In 2012, a meta-analysis of the available literature suggested that LSD may benefit those with alcohol addiction. The review looked at six studies in total, which featured 536 participants. The most exciting part, just a single dose of LSD was associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse!

While the cannabis plant is often touted as a safer alternative to opioids, these psychedelic drugs seem to tackle addiction differently. Cannabis has direct pain-relieving effects and can improve mood and your quality of life. Psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms, on the other hand, cause euphoric and spiritual experiences.

Is Psychedelic Therapy Safe?

Unfortunately, the safety of psychedelics is a bit questionable. For one, there is no way to be 100% sure about what you’re getting from psychedelics that aren’t administered in a clinic. Yet, there is a growing amount of research on psychedelic therapy that is quite promising.

Thus far, recent clinical trials of psilocybin have been found effective and well-tolerated in treating the anxiety and depression associated with a cancer diagnosis.

Additional tests of a typical party drug, MDMA, found early success in reducing treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. However, MDMA given to patients in trials is a far cry from what is commonly sold on the street. In the clinic, pharmaceutical-grade materials are used, not random materials acquired from an unknown source.

Thus far, trials have been conducted in a very comfortable, safe, and relaxed environment with trusted professionals close at hand. Without professional help, consumers can face some risks when experimenting with these illicit substances in the home.

For example, one early case reports that eight consumers snorted an abnormally large dose of LSD and had to be hospitalized. The consumers experienced hallucinations, hyperactivity, hypothermia, vomiting, bleeding, and physical collapse. Symptoms started within 15 minutes of snorting more than two lines of white powder, which they thought contained cocaine. It was unclear what the second line of random white powder was. When blood tested, the patients tested positive for LSD. Was that the sole cause of the extreme side effects? Who knows.

MDMA’s Side Effects

The Side Effects of Pure MDMA

The side effects of MDMA include: 

  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Feeling Cold
  • Anxiety
  • Dry Mouth
  • Heavy Legs
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Jaw Clenching
  • Impaired Balance
  • Perspiration
  • Restless Legs
  • Thirst

However, not all users experience these side effects. 

Desirable Effects Of MDMA

These effects last around 3-4 hours:

  • Everything is perfect 
  • Extreme Euphoria
  • Empathy
  • More Authentic

When taken in a positive environment and with trusted friends, users feel an intense euphoria, a sense of connectedness, enhanced touch and bodily sensations, enhanced empathy, and enhanced sensitivity to bright colors. The people and the world around you seem perfect and conversations with people are deeper and more empathetic. 

Short Term Risks

Consuming a substance that is not pure MDMA can cause a risk to your health. Many tablets and powders are impure and adultered with other drugs. 

MDMA can cause heat stroke or serotonin syndrome. Due to its effect on the Hypothalamus MDMA increases heat stroke. 

MDMA can cause Hyponatremia. This is caused by drinking too much water. Since MDMA causes water retention, dancing in hot environments can cause dehydration. Drinking too much water can be fatal. 

Long Term Side Effects

Long term use of MDMA can have serious risks on the user. MDMA can cause neuronal damage. In very high single doses and excessive moderate doses have demonstrated damaging effects on serotonergic neurons in higher brain regions like the neocortex of animals such as rats and primates.

Neuronal changes due to long term MDMA abuse include these unpleasant side effects:

  • Lower Libido
  • Depression
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Sleep Problems
  • Anxiety

Research has also found cognitive performance deficits in long term users.

Risk of Overdose

If you begin taking MDMA on a regular basis, you’ll notice that you will need more of the drug to produce the desired effects it once did. 

This can cause you to take MDMA in larger amounts which can put you at greater risk for an overdose of MDMA.

The warning signs of MDMA overdose include:

  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia
  • Faintness
  • Panic Attacks
  • High Blood Pressure

Another potentially lethal medical crisis that can arise with heavy use of MDMA is called serotonin syndrome, where the brain is flooded with dangerous amounts of serotonin.

These symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Rapid Heartrate
  • High Body Temperature
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Flushed Appearance to Skin
  • Hyperactive Reflexes

The Side Effects of Impure MDMA

Many users put their life at risk by consuming impure MDMA. Your “MDMA,” “molly,” or “ecstasy” is probably not pure MDMA. 

WIM Scientific Laboratories, an MDMA testing kit company, found that 61% of ecstasy tablets contained other drugs and 46% contained 0% of MDMA. 

Between 2009 and 2013, the DEA analyzed 87% of “molly” and found 0% of pure MDMA, instead most of them contained bath salts.  

These adultered drugs can cause worse side effects than pure MDMA. So getting impure MDMA can have serious risks in your health. Given that MDMA is illegal and unregulated, impure MDMA is a frequent risk among users.