Psychedelics have exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to a growing body of literature that indicates they may be potent mental-health treatments. Several studies have found that when psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA are paired with traditional talk therapy, they can provide long-term relief against mental conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and severe depression.
Like medical cannabis, psychedelics are emerging from the specter of decades of federal prohibition due to a spike in research that connected hallucinogens to several mental-health benefits. Researchers are now looking into the possibility of using psychedelics to treat brain injuries and any other conditions that may arise from differences in neural wiring. If psychedelics prove to be effective at treating physical injuries to the brain, they may open up new treatment options for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), stroke and mental conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were around 214,110 traumatic brain disorder-related hospitalizations in 2020 and nearly 70,000 TBI-related deaths in 2021. Brain injuries can also result in changes in vision, hearing, motor skills, behavior or emotion as well as problems with learning and thinking.
Although research into the connection between psychedelics and accelerated healing after brain injury is scant, some studies have found that hallucinogens can potentially limit damage to neural cells after head injuries. A study published in the “Nature” journal noted that lab animals were able to reenter critical learning periods as adults and learn new skills after using psychedelics, indicating that psychedelics could trigger the replacement of older impaired neural cells with new neurons.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine associate professor of neuroscience Gül Dölen, who coauthored the study, explained that psychedelics “are the master keys” to reopening social reward learning critical periods.
Seattle integrative rehabilitation medicine physician Sunil Aggarwal also coauthored a review on the potential of using psychedelics to treat brain injuries. Aggarwal said the field may be young, but existing research shows that psychedelics have lots of potential as treatments for brain injuries. The ability of psychedelics to reopen learning periods that were previously only accessible to juveniles gives the substances a particular edge against conditions such as TBIs and strokes, which damage neurons and often cause patients to lose motor or speech skills. Psychedelics may allow such patients to relearn motor and speech skills following events such as TBIs and strokes long after their learning period closed.
The world is closely looking at the way the drug-development programs that psychedelics companies such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are undertaking, since those pipelines could bring needed treatments to some conditions which are currently hard to treat, such as traumatic brain injuries.
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