OPEN Foundation

Personal development

LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors

Abstract

Adapting one’s attitudes and behaviors to group norms is essential for successful social interaction and, thus, participation in society. Yet, despite its importance for societal and individual functioning, the underlying neuropharmacology is poorly understood. We therefore investigated its neurochemical and neural correlates in a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been shown to alter social processing and therefore provides the unique opportunity to investigate the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in social influence processing. Twenty-four healthy human volunteers received either (1) placebo + placebo, (2) placebo + LSD (100 µg), or (3) the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg) + LSD (100 µg) at three different occasions in a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, cross-over design. LSD increases social adaptation but only if the opinions of others are similar to the individual’s own. These increases were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex while participants received social feedback. Furthermore, pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin fully blocked LSD-induced changes during feedback processing, indicating a key role of the 5-HT2A system in social feedback processing. Our results highlight the crucial role of the 5-HT-system in social influence and, thus, provide important insight into the neuropharmacological basis of social cognition and behavior.
Duerler, P., Schilbach, L., Stämpfli, P., Vollenweider, F. X., & Preller, K. H. (2020). LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors. Scientific reports10(1), 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68899-y
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Broadening Your Mind to Include Others: The relationship between serotonergic psychedelic experiences and maladaptive narcissism

Abstract

Rationale: Recent research has shown that classical serotonergic psychedelic (CSP) drugs may be used to ameliorate certain health issues and disorders. Here we hypothesised that CSP experiences, through their ability to induce awe and ego-dissolution, may result in a reduction of maladaptive narcissistic personality traits, such as a strong sense of entitlement and lack of empathy.
Objectives: Our objective was to investigate whether high levels of awe and ego dissolution during recent CSP experiences are associated with currently lower levels of maladaptive narcissism.
Methods: In this pre-registered high-powered (N = 414) study, we used an online retrospective survey asking participants to describe their ‘most awe-inspiring, impressive, significant, or emotionally intense experience’, as well as several validated scales to test our hypothesis.
Results: A statistically significant mediation model indicated that recent CSP-induced experiences were associated with currently increased feelings of connectedness and affective empathetic drive, which in turn were associated with decreased exploitative-entitled narcissism. This relationship held even when taking into account sensation-seeking personality features. We found no evidence for feelings of ego dissolution to have the same effect.
Conclusions: Feelings of awe, but not ego dissolution, during recent CSP experiences were associated with increased feelings of connectedness and empathy, which in turn were associated with decreased levels of maladaptive narcissism personality features. This suggests that CSPs hold therapeutic potential for disorders involving connectedness and empathy, such as the treatment of pathological narcissism, and that the induction of connectedness through awe appears to be the driving force behind this potential.
van Mulukom, V., Patterson, R., & van Elk, M. (2020). Broadening Your Mind to Include Others-The relationship between serotonergic psychedelic experiences and maladaptive narcissism_PREPRINT. PsyArXiv. March10., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05568-y
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The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being – An Early Review

Abstract

Psychedelic substances are currently experiencing a renaissance in interest for both therapeutic as well as recreational applications. It has been proposed that microdosing, i.e., ingesting sub-perceptual doses of a psychedelic, could confer some of the benefits of these substances to users while minimizing the risks associated with full-dose use. This review aimed to summarize and examine the extant literature on psychedelic microdosing. Exploratory evidence published to date indicates a variety of benefits reported by microdosers including improvements in mood, focus, and creativity, with some null reports, and a minority of people reporting selective negative consequences such as increased anxiety and physiological discomfort. Methodological limitations of current evidence, however, make definitive conclusions hard to draw. Recommendations for future research are given.
Bornemann, J. (2020). The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being-An Early Review. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1761573
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Use of Benefit Enhancement Strategies among 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) Users: Associations with Mystical, Challenging, and Enduring Effects.

Abstract

5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) is a potent, fast-acting psychedelic. Anecdotal reports from 5-MeO-DMT users suggest that they employ a variety of benefit enhancement (BE) strategies aimed to increase positive effects and decrease any potential challenging effects of the substance, but no empirical study has investigated this claim. We examined the prevalence of BE strategy use using secondary data from a survey of 5-MeO-DMT users (n = 515; Mage = 35.4, SD = 11.7; Male = 79%; White/Caucasian = 86%). Results indicated that BE strategy use was common in this sample. As a secondary aim, we assessed whether the use of BE strategies was associated with acute subjective (i.e., mystical-type, challenging) and persisting effects of 5-MeO-DMT among a subset of respondents who reported using 5-MeO-DMT once in their lifetime (n = 116). Results showed that the use of several BE strategies were associated with significantly more intense mystical-type effects and enduring beliefs about the personal meaning and spiritual significance of their experience, and some BE strategies were associated with less intense or challenging experiences. Data suggests that BE strategies are commonly used, and that the use of BE strategies may be associated with increases in positive mystical-type and enduring effects. The causal influence of BE strategies on acute/persisting effects of 5-MeO-DMT should be examined in longitudinal research.

Lancelotta, R. L., & Davis, A. K. (2020). Use of benefit enhancement strategies among 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) users: Associations with mystical, challenging, and enduring effects. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-9.,10.1080/02791072.2020.1737763
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Posttraumatic Growth After MDMA‐Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Abstract

3,4‐Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)–assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been shown to significantly reduce clinical symptomatology, but posttraumatic growth (PTG), which consists of positive changes in self‐perception, interpersonal relationships, or philosophy of life, has not been studied with this treatment. Participant data (n = 60) were pooled from three Phase 2 clinical studies employing triple‐blind crossover designs. Participants were required to meet DSM‐IV‐R criteria for PTSD with a score higher than 50 on the Clinician‐Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS‐IV) as well as previous inadequate response to pharmacological and/or psychotherapeutic treatment. Data were aggregated into two groups: an active MDMA dose group (75–125 mg of MDMA; n = 45) or placebo/active control (0–40 mg of MDMA; n = 15). Measures included the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and the CAPS‐IV, which were administered at baseline, primary endpoint, treatment exit, and 12‐month follow‐up. At primary endpoint, the MDMA group demonstrated more PTG, Hedges’ g = 1.14, 95% CI [0.49, 1.78], p < .001; and a larger reduction in PTSD symptom severity, Hedges’ g = 0.88, 95% CI [−0.28, 1.50], p < .001, relative to the control group. Relative to baseline, at the 12‐month follow‐up, within‐subject PTG was higher, p < .001; PTSD symptom severity scores were lower, p < .001; and two‐thirds of participants (67.2%) no longer met criteria for PTSD. MDMA‐assisted psychotherapy for PTSD resulted in PTG and clinical symptom reductions of large‐magnitude effect sizes. Results suggest that PTG may provide a new mechanism of action warranting further study.
Gorman, I., Belser, A. B., Jerome, L., Hennigan, C., Shechet, B., Hamilton, S., … & Feduccia, A. A. (2020). Posttraumatic Growth After MDMA‐Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress., https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22479

Therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin: Changes in amygdala and prefrontal functional connectivity during emotional processing after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Psilocybin has shown promise as a treatment for depression but its therapeutic mechanisms are not properly understood. In contrast to the presumed actions of antidepressants, we recently found increased amygdala responsiveness to fearful faces one day after open-label treatment with psilocybin (25 mg) in 19 patients with treatment-resistant depression, which correlated with treatment efficacy.

AIMS:

Aiming to further unravel the therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin, the present study extends this basic activation analysis. We hypothesised changed amygdala functional connectivity, more precisely decreased amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex functional connectivity, during face processing after treatment with psilocybin.

METHODS:

Psychophysiological interaction analyses were conducted on functional magnetic resonance imaging data from a classic face/emotion perception task, with the bilateral amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex time-series as physiological regressors. Average parameter estimates (beta weights) of significant clusters were correlated with clinical outcomes at one week.

RESULTS:

Results showed decreased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-right amygdala functional connectivity during face processing post- (versus pre-) treatment; this decrease was associated with levels of rumination at one week. This effect was driven by connectivity changes in response to fearful and neutral (but not happy) faces. Independent whole-brain analyses also revealed a post-treatment increase in functional connectivity between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex to occipital-parietal cortices during face processing.

CONCLUSION:

These results are consistent with the idea that psilocybin therapy revives emotional responsiveness on a neural and psychological level, which may be a key treatment mechanism for psychedelic therapy. Future larger placebo-controlled studies are needed to examine the replicability of the current findings.

Mertens, L. J., Wall, M. B., Roseman, L., Demetriou, L., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2020). Therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin: Changes in amygdala and prefrontal functional connectivity during emotional processing after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 10.1177/0269881119895520
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Ayahuasca's 'afterglow': improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
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Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
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Twenty percent better with 20 micrograms? A qualitative study of psychedelic microdosing self-rapports and discussions on YouTube.

Abstract

Background

Psychedelic microdosing is the trending practice of using tiny repeated doses of psychedelic substances to facilitate a range of supposed benefits. With only a few published studies to date, the subject is still under-researched, and more knowledge is warranted. Social media and internet discussion forums have played a vital role in the growing visibility of the microdosing phenomenon, and the present study utilized YouTube contents to improve comprehension of the microdosing practice as well as the social interactions and discussions around microdosing.

Methods

Microdosing self-disclosure in YouTube videos and their following comments were qualitatively analyzed by inductive thematic analysis. Various software was utilized to enable gathering and sorting relevant data.

Results

Microdosing of psychedelic substances, primarily LSD and psilocybin, was used for therapeutic and enhancement purposes, and predominantly beneficial effects were reported. Many different applications and outcomes were discussed, and therapeutic effects for depression appeared especially noteworthy. Intentions for use were recognized as an influencing factor for the progression and outcomes of microdosing. The function of social interactions was mainly to discuss views on the microdosing phenomenon, strategies for optimal results, minimize risks, and share emotional support.

Conclusions

Potentially, microdosing could provide some of the same benefits (for certain conditions) as full-dose interventions with less risk of adverse reactions related to the sometimes intense experiences of higher doses. Microdosing may well also mean additional benefits, as well as risks, through the repeated exposure over extended periods.
Andersson, M., & Kjellgren, A. (2019). Twenty percent better with 20 micrograms? A qualitative study of psychedelic microdosing self-rapports and discussions on YouTube. Harm reduction journal16(1), 1-12., https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0333-3
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Microdosing psychedelics: Motivations, subjective effects and harm reduction

Abstract

Background: In recent years there has been growing media attention on microdosing psychedelics (e.g., LSD, psilocybin). This refers to people routinely taking small doses of psychedelic substances to improve mental health and wellbeing, or to enhance cognitive performance. Research evidence is currently limited. This paper examines microdosing motivations, dosing practices, perceived short-term benefits, unwanted effects, and harm reduction practices.

Methods: An international online survey was conducted in 2018 examining people’s experiences of using psychedelics. Eligible participants were aged 16 years or older, had used psychedelics and could comprehend written English. This paper focuses on 525 participants who were microdosing psychedelics at the time of the survey.

Results: Participants were primarily motivated to microdose to improve mental health (40%), for personal development (31%) and cognitive enhancement (18%). Most were microdosing with psilocybin (55%) or LSD/1P-LSD (48%). Principal components analysis generated three factors examining perceived short-term benefits of microdosing: improved mood and anxiety, enhanced connection to others and environment, and cognitive enhancement; and three factors examining negative and potentially unwanted effects: stronger-than-expected psychedelic effects, anxiety-related effects, and physical adverse effects. Most participants (78%) reported at least one harm reduction practice they routinely performed while microdosing.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that people microdosing are commonly doing so as a self-managed therapy for mental health, either as an alternative or adjunct to conventional treatments. This is despite psychedelics remaining prohibited substances in most jurisdictions. Recent findings from clinical trials with standard psychedelic doses for depression and anxiety suggest that a neurobiological effect beyond placebo is not unreasonable. Randomised controlled trials are needed, complemented by mixed methods social science research and the development of novel resources on microdosing harm reduction.

Lea, T., Amada, N., Jungaberle, H., Schecke, H., & Klein, M. (2020). Microdosing psychedelics: Motivations, subjective effects and harm reduction. The International journal on drug policy, 75, 102600. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.11.008

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