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Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder

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Purpose: Psychedelic therapy is showing promise for a broad range of mental health conditions, indicative of a transdiagnostic action. While the efficacy of symptom-focused treatments for eating disorders (EDs) is limited, improved mental health and psychological wellbeing are thought to contribute to greater treatment outcomes. This study provides the first quantitative exploration of the psychological effects of psychedelics in those reporting an ED diagnosis.

Methods: Prospective, online data were collected from individuals planning to take a psychedelic drug. Twenty-eight participants reporting a lifetime ED diagnosis completed measures of depressive symptomology (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology; QIDS-SR16) and psychological wellbeing (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale; WEMWBS) 1-2 weeks before, and 2 weeks after a psychedelic experience. Twenty-seven of these participants also completed a measure of emotional breakthrough [Emotional Breakthrough Inventory (EBI)] in relation to the acute psychedelic experience.

Results: Bayesian t tests demonstrated overwhelming evidence for improvements in depression and wellbeing scores following the psychedelic experience. Marginal evidence was also found for a correlation between emotional breakthrough and the relevant mental health improvements.

Conclusion: These findings provide supportive evidence for positive psychological aftereffects of a psychedelic experience that are relevant to the treatment of EDs. It is hoped that this will encourage further research and will bolster initiatives to directly examine the safety and efficacy of psychedelic assisted therapy as a treatment of EDs in future clinical trials.

Level of evidence: Level III, cohort study.

Spriggs, M. J., Kettner, H., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2021). Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 26(4), 1265–1270.

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