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Scientists Explore Microbiome’s Role in Medicinal Effects of Psychedelics

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A microbiome is a group of up to 1,000 microbial and bacterial species that live within your body and play a major role in a variety of functions. Most of the microorganisms in the microbiome are symbiotic and have mutually beneficial relationships with their host. In recent years, increased research into the human microbiome has indicated that it plays a critical role in maintaining both physical and mental health.

As the field of psychedelic research picks up speed amid a surge of investment into hallucinogenic drug research, more scientists are considering the association between psychedelics and the human microbiome. Several studies involving psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA, have revealed that they are capable of producing profound and long-lasting health benefits at minimal doses and with relatively few side effects.

While scientists still aren’t entirely sure how psychedelics act on the body to produce these effects, plenty of researchers are currently studying how psychedelic compounds can have such profound effects on consciousness. Maastricht University’s Dr. Kim Kuypers began looking into the relationship between microbiomes and psychedelics in 2019. She wanted to understand why the effects of psychedelics tend to last long after the actual trip is over, and she thought that the body’s microbiome may play a role.

Kuypers said that psychedelic research is a new field, and most scientists tend to focus on the cognitive or psychological effects of psychedelics in their studies. While the gut microbiome may indeed play a role in how psychedelics affect the user, studying this relationship is a pretty tedious task.

There are billions of fungi and bacteria living in the gut and their interactions, which are practically innumerable, often have a varied range of effects on different biological systems within the body. But one link shared between the gut microbiome and psychedelics is that they both affect physical and mental health.

Trinity College’s Dr. John Kelly is also keen on understanding the microbiome’s complexities and how it is affected by psychedelic drugs. In a recent study, Kelly suggests that microbiome interventions could be made during the preparation and integration phases to make psychedelic treatment more effective. He described how certain combinations of psychedelic compounds and microbes could interact in vastly different ways as the microbiome communicates with the body in a wide array of pathways.

Kelly posited that the microbiome essentially acts as an interface between the environment and “the self” and that it could be harnessed during psychedelic treatment to help bring a patient into a “healthier homeostatic state.” However, significantly more research will be needed to ascertain the link between gut bacteria and psychedelics and how this association can be used to make psychedelic-assisted therapy more effective.

With all the psychedelic research being undertaken by entities such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS), the world is likely to learn plenty more about these fascinating hallucinogens.

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