Psychedelics for IBS and Lyme Disease: Evidence Mounts

Psychedelics for IBS and Lyme Disease: Evidence Mounts

Troublesome ticks. Tricky tummies. Are there psychedelic treatments?

Leading institutions are launching new studies about whether an unexpected treatment could come to the rescue for those suffering from Lyme Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It is estimated that about 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States alone. While about 15% of the global population suffers from IBS. These are issues that affect a large number of the population.

Most people think of psychedelics in a medical context, in terms of their mental health applications. (Psychedelic, after all, means “mind-manifesting.”) But indigenous use–and Euro-American research–suggests they can treat the body. And a number of studies published –- and many clinical trials underway –- relate to the capacity of psychedelic compounds to treat various physical health conditions. Now, the roster of treatable conditions expands, and includes gut health and autoimmune diseases. 

Exciting news: Two states have legalized psilocybin therapy for the first time ever. Click here to get on the waiting list for Oregon psilocybin therapy. And click here to get on the waiting list for Colorado psilocybin therapy.

Dyscovry is owned by Silo Wellness, which runs psilocybin retreats in Jamaica. Photo from Silo Wellness

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system, and can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Psychedelic company Dyscovry is investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of psychedelics, which are believed to be mediated through 5-HT2A activation, and how this link relates to conditions that affect the large intestine. 

Meanwhile, Tryp Therapeutics has teamed up with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to study the effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of IBS. Researchers will be looking to see if there will be improvements in abdominal pain. Dr Erin Mauney, a pediatric gastroenterology fellow at MGH and leader of the study, says the research “will examine how psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may alter important brain networks involved in chronic pain and gastrointestinal-specific anxiety in IBS to bolster the neural flexibility in these patients and thereby reduce visceral hypersensitivity.”

This study may bolster glowing reports from many psychedelic users who feel that these compounds have greatly alleviated their IBS symptoms. 

The Tryp Therapeutics/MGH study underscores how IBS is related to distressing mental states. And by treating the distressing mental states, psychedelics can help alleviate the physical symptoms of IBS. As one user on the IBS Patient Support Group Forum writes, “I use[d] to do 50mg psilocybin every month to eliminate my stress disorder which had the same effect of eliminating my bowel issues.” However, they note this was tricky because the bowel issues are an all-day issue. 

This does speak to a common obstacle patients with physical issues face. Psychedelics may alleviate symptoms, but it can be impractical and unappealing to trip regularly in order to achieve this relief. Nevertheless, the user on the IBS Patient Support Group Forum adds that “DMT microdosing is easier and simpler (it’s not AS effective but I’ll take it) method of achieving similar results.” This way, they don’t have to have a psychedelic experience to notice improvements. Also, it’s possible that non-hallucinogenic versions of psychedelic compounds may be able to treat various physical health conditions, such as IBS.

RELATED: Ketamine For Pain: Chronic Pain, CRPS, Migraines and More

Is Science Catching Up With Indigenous Use Of Psychedelics?

Using psychedelics to treat something like IBS may seem nonsensical. Yet indigenous communities often use natural psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, to resolve physical ailments. Many Westerners also join ayahuasca retreats in order to treat their physical health conditions. These conditions include sleep disorders, backaches, chronic fatigue, and plaque psoriasis (an immune disease). There’s also interstitial cystitis (characterized by bladder pain and frequent urination). One explanation is that many physical issues have roots in emotional ones; thus, by addressing the mind and spirit, the body may then improve.

RELATED: What is ayahuasca?

It seems that scientists are now providing evidence for what has often been the goal of indigenous use of psychedelics: to alleviate physical complaints. And this is a benefit that many psychedelic users all over the world also report. The medical use of psychedelics, then, is expanding to cover a range of physical conditions affecting millions of people. This is because of the unique brain activity resulting from their ingestion, as well as the deep links between our emotional and physical states.

So, today, researchers are turning their attention to other physical ailments that may have an emotional component. Including one, Lyme Disease, that can be debilitating and feel interminable.  

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. It can be chronic. Symptoms include fatigue, restless sleep, pain, aching joints or muscles, decreased short-term memory or ability to concentrate, and speech problems. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Unit are studying psilocybin for Lyme Disease. They want to know if psilocybin is a safe and effective way to improve fatigue, pain, mood, and quality of life in people living with Post-Treatment Lyme Disease (PTLD). PTLD is \when symptoms continue after a course of antibiotics has cleared the infection.

RELATED: Mushroom-Testing Labs Find Huge Differences in Psilocybin and Other Compounds

Mark Haden, executive director of MAPS Canada, examined three cases of LSD overdoses in a paper for the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The most remarkable case was a 46-year-old woman, who Haden refers to as CB. She suffered from chronic pain caused by Lyme disease. An accident resulted in a surprise. She snorted a line of white powder, thinking it was cocaine, but which was in fact LSD. Her roommate estimated she had snorted up to 55 mg of the substance, or 550 times the average dose. Her trip lasted 34 hours, during which she blacked out and vomited frequently. 

However, curiously, her chronic pain completely subsided. She had been taking morphine every day for seven years to treat her symptoms for lyme disease. But after her LSD overdose, her pain disappeared and, also surprisingly, she experienced no withdrawal symptoms from the morphine. Her pain did return after not taking morphine for five days. Microdosing LSD for a few years helped her kick the morphine altogether (again, with no withdrawal symptoms). 

READ NEXT: LSD and Mushrooms for Headaches and Pain? The Research is Surprising

A Dent in the Mind-Body Separation

Europeans and Americans tend to separate mind and body. We say, “I have a body.” We could just as well say, “I am a body.” These stories and studies about psychedelics treating body and mind at the same time are important. They could change our thinking. And they could help us treat troublesome diseases like IBS and Lyme disease. And these insights could help us find a new perspective on all our ailments–and our gifts. 

RELATED: Mandrake Root as a Treatment for IBS.

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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