A recent study has indicated that a nonhallucinogenic form of LSD may be able to treat mood disorders. LSD is one of several psychedelics that have recently gained attention from the scientific community as potential treatments for mental health conditions. Initial psychedelic studies have provided positive results, with researchers finding that hallucinogens such as psilocybin, LSD and MDM can potentially treat a wide variety of psychiatric disorders.
However, psychedelic therapies are marred by the fact that patients have to go through mind-bending psychedelic experiences during treatment, often for hours at a time. This hikes the cost of psychedelic therapy because it often requires the aid of at least two therapists and prevents these professionals from helping more people.
Furthermore, not everyone wants to experience the mind-bending effects of most psychedelics; many just want to take their medicine and go home. As such, scientists have been working to develop psychedelic therapies that don’t have hallucinogenic effects but still deliver mental health benefits.
A nonhallucinogenic analog called 2-Br-LSD could be the medication these patients and scientists have been seeking. Rather than inducing a psychedelic trip, this analog targets and activates the 5-HT2A receptor in the brain instead of the 5-HT2B receptor. This prevents the psychedelic from triggering a psychoactive response and makes it nigh impossible for patients to build up a tolerance to the drug with continued use.
2-Br-LSD also appears to accelerate neuroplasticity, which indicates that it could act as a relatively effective treatment for patients with depression. Animal studies have even found that 2-Br-LSD can help animals cope with stress better, suggesting that it could also be effective as a treatment for chronic stress.
If 2-Br-LSD proves to be safe and effective in human trials, it could open up the field of psychedelic treatments to a vast swathe of the market that isn’t comfortable with being intoxicated by regular psychedelics. Instead of going through several hours of guided psychedelic experiences, patients could simply take a nonhallucinogenic tablet and move on to talk therapy.
It would significantly reduce the cost of psychedelic therapies, making the treatments more accessible to the general public, and also reduce the duration of guided sessions while allowing clinicians to attend to more patients. According to a 2023 study, the LSD analog had a major impact on serotonin receptors and activated the 5-HT2A receptor without triggering hallucinations.
It is less likely to result in tolerance in patients compared to traditional LSD and can ease depression symptoms by boosting neuroplasticity. Although it has exhibited significant potential as a mood disorder treatment, researchers say that more research has to be done to verify the LSD analog’s effects and understand the underlying mechanisms that cause these effects.
While LSD analogs are undergoing scientific scrutiny, plenty of research is also being undertaken on classic psychedelics such as psilocybin by enterprises such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI). The future of mental-health care may therefore be dominated by treatments derived from these substances.
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