Psychedelic Psilocybin Use Could Help Treat Anorexia

The anorexia nervosa It is a serious eating disorder that causes affected people to have excessive concern for their physical appearance and a distorted body image, which is why they consider that they are fat, even if they are extremely thin. In addition, they feel fear and anxiety about food, are obsessed with their weight, and follow a restrictive diet, excluding numerous foods and adopting repetitive behavior patterns. If it is not treated properly, the patient can die and, in fact, this disease has one of the higher mortality rates among psychiatric pathologies.

The treatment of anorexia nervosa must be carried out by a multidisciplinary team that includes professionals from psychology, psychiatry and endocrinology, among others. In addition, it is difficult to help these patients because they do not recognize that they are sick and do not accept therapies willingly, or abandon them. Now, new research by scientists at the University of California San Diego has looked at the effects of psilocybin as a therapy for anorexia nervosa and has found it to be safe and well tolerated.

Psilocybin is a substance found naturally in hallucinogenic mushrooms and that is responsible for its psychoactive effect. Many of these fungi are of the genus Psilocybe and have been used for playful purposes, or with the aim of having psychedelic and mystical experiences. Although its potential therapeutic effects are also being investigated, and some studies suggest that psilocybin, in small doses, may have beneficial effects in people with depression and other psychiatric or psychological problems.

Psilocybin therapy showed improvements in anxiety and cognitive flexibility that the researchers believe may influence concerns associated with eating disorders

In the study, 10 adult women in partial remission of anorexia received therapy with 25mg synthetic psilocybin along with psychological support. Safety, tolerability, primary outcomes, patient acceptability, and eating disorder-specific psychopathology were assessed. These people reported experiencing positive changes three months after dosing, with some showing clinically significant decreases in eating disorder psychopathology. No serious adverse effects were observed.

Worry about weight decreased in patients with anorexia

Psilocybin therapy showed improvements in anxiety and cognitive flexibility that, in the opinion of the researchers, could influence the concerns associated with eating disorders, the rigid thinking styles and entrenched behavior patterns, which is a key first step in controlling the disease and overcoming it in the long term.

The results indicate that weight concerns decreased significantly from baseline at the first month and at the three-month follow-up, with a medium to large effect. Concerns about the figure decreased significantly at one month of follow-up, but were no longer significant after three months. Changes in feeding concerns and dietary restriction were not significant, but changes in feeding concerns became relevant by the third month.

On average, the changes in the body mass index (BMI) were not statistically significant during the study. The lack of significant improvement in BMI indicates that specific nutritional rehabilitation may need to be included. Previous studies have also shown that the microbiome plays a role in patients with anorexia nervosa, so the need to rehabilitate the microbiome should be considered.

The researchers detail the results of this treatment in their article ‘Psilocybin Therapy for Women With Anorexia Nervosa: A Phase 1 Open-Label Feasibility Study’, published in Nature Medicine. Their findings add to a growing body of research showing the potential role of magic mushrooms in managing a wide range of psychiatric disorders, but well-controlled trials with larger numbers of participants are needed to determine what role magic mushrooms might play. psilocybin in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

A very small study and no control group

Speaking to SMC Spain, Alberto Ortiz Lobo, Doctor of Medicine and psychiatrist at the Carlos III Day Hospital – La Paz University Hospital (Madrid), does not have a good opinion of the results of the work and affirms that “this study has very important limitations. Part of an unproven hypothesis: that serotonergic function is altered in people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and that psilocybin may be effective because it acts specifically on this neurotransmission system. The study is of a very low quality, with a minimal sample, of only ten patients, and no control group. This research (like most of the research being done on psychedelics) pays no attention to how the immediate psychoactive effects of drugs impact people’s feelings and behavior. This impact will inevitably influence symptom ratings and may give the impression of improvement. It also ignores the profound placebo effect that the hours of medical supervision and professional care associated with psychedelic treatment are likely to produce.”

He is also cautious about it Joaquim Raduà, psychiatrist and head of the IDIBAPS research group Image of Disorders Related to Mood and Anxiety, who, in statements to the same outlet, states: “Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness and the treatments available to us are highly effective. limited, so I look forward to any news about new treatments. However, it is important to underline that the study by Peck et al. It is very early, very small, with no control group, and basically just wanted to know if psilocybin is a safe and tolerable treatment. The study also observed that four patients improved, but we don’t know if it was because of the psilocybin, because of the psychological support, or simply because of chance. For this reason, we should avoid placing too much hope until there are larger, controlled studies.”


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