OPEN Foundation

J. Aday

Predicting Reactions to Psychedelic Drugs: A Systematic Review of States and Traits Related to Acute Drug Effects

Abstract

Psychedelic drugs are increasingly being incorporated into therapeutic contexts for the purposes of promoting mental health. However, they can also induce adverse reactions in some individuals, and it is difficult to predict before treatment who is likely to experience positive or adverse acute effects. Although consideration of setting and dosage as well as excluding individuals with psychotic predispositions has thus far led to a high degree of safety, it is imperative that researchers develop a more nuanced understanding of how to predict individual reactions. To this end, the current systematic review coalesced the results of 14 studies that included baseline states or traits predictive of the acute effects of psychedelics. Individuals high in the traits of absorption, openness, and acceptance as well as a state of surrender were more likely to have positive and mystical-type experiences, whereas those low in openness and surrender or in preoccupied, apprehensive, or confused psychological states were more likely to experience acute adverse reactions. Participant sex was not a robust predictor of drug effects, but 5-HT2AR binding potential, executive network node diversity, and rACC volume may be potential baseline biomarkers related to acute reactions. Finally, increased age and experience with psychedelics were individual differences related to generally less intense effects, indicating that users may become slightly less sensitive to the effects of the drugs after repeated usage. Although future well-powered, placebo-controlled trials directly comparing the relative importance of these predictors is needed, this review synthesizes the field’s current understanding of how to predict acute reactions to psychedelic drugs.

Aday, J. S., Davis, A. K., Mitzkovitz, C. M., Bloesch, E. K., & Davoli, C. C. (2021). Predicting Reactions to Psychedelic Drugs: A Systematic Review of States and Traits Related to Acute Drug Effects. ACS pharmacology & translational science, 4(2), 424–435. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsptsci.1c00014

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Psychedelics and virtual reality: parallels and applications

Abstract

Psychedelic drugs and virtual reality (VR) each have the capacity to disrupt the rigidity and limitations of typical conscious experience. This article delineates the parallels among psychedelic and VR states as well as their potential synergistic applications in clinical and recreational settings. Findings indicate that, individually, psychedelics and VR are used in analogous ways to alter sensory experience and evoke awe. They are also both used in tandem with traditional therapies to treat a variety of mood disorders; their shared capacity to transiently alter perspective and disrupt rigid patterns of mental experience may underly their analogous and transdiagnostic therapeutic uses. In terms of their combined applications, a number of recreational users currently utilize psychedelics and VR together to enhance their experience. We propose that VR may be a useful tool for preparing hallucinogen-naïve participants in clinical trials for the sensory distortions experienced in psychedelic states. Given the critical role of “setting” in psychedelic treatment outcomes, we also detail how VR could be used to optimize the environment in psychedelic sessions. Finally, we provide considerations for future studies and detail how advancements in psychedelic and VR research can inform one another. Collectively, this article outlines a number of connections between psychedelics and VR, and, more broadly, is representative of growing scientific interest into the interactions among technology, psychopharmacology, and mental health.

Aday, J. S., Davoli, C. C., & Bloesch, E. K. (2020). Psychedelics and virtual reality: parallels and applications. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 10, 2045125320948356. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125320948356

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Long-term effects of psychedelic drugs: A systematic review

Abstract

Research into the basic effects and therapeutic applications of psychedelic drugs has grown considerably in recent years. Yet, pressing questions remain regarding the substances’ lasting effects. Although individual studies have begun monitoring sustained changes, no study to-date has synthesized this information. Therefore, this systematic review aims to fill this important gap in the literature by synthesizing results from 34 contemporary experimental studies which included classic psychedelics, human subjects, and follow-up latencies of at least two weeks. The bulk of this work was published in the last five years, with psilocybin being the most frequently administered drug. Enduring changes in personality/attitudes, depression, spirituality, anxiety, wellbeing, substance misuse, meditative practices, and mindfulness were documented. Mystical experiences, connectedness, emotional breakthrough, and increased neural entropy were related to these long-term changes in psychological functioning. Finally, with proper screening, preparation, supervision, and integration, limited aversive side effects were noted by study participants. Future researchers should focus on including larger and more diverse samples, lengthier longitudinal designs, stronger control conditions, and standardized dosages.

Aday, J. S., Mitzkovitz, C. M., Bloesch, E. K., Davoli, C. C., & Davis, A. K. (2020). Long-term effects of psychedelic drugs: A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews., 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.03.017
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Beyond LSD: A Broader Psychedelic Zeitgeist during the Early to Mid-20 th Century

Abstract

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a tremendous surge in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs. When discussing this period of research, the discovery of the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 is often presented as the main, and sometimes only, driving force of the boom in research. This “Great Person,” or “Great Chemical,” historiographical lens fails to acknowledge other factors that were fundamental in setting the stage for the research. In particular, other psychedelic drugs, such as mescaline, were already being probed for their uses in psychotherapy and as models for psychosis before the effects of LSD had been discovered. Psilocybin and other classical psychedelics had also been discovered by Western researchers around the same time as the synthesis of LSD. Additionally, many of the dominant zeitgeists (e.g., pharmacological, psychoanalytic, and humanistic) in psychology during this period were congruent with psychedelic research. This article argues that while the discovery of LSD may have been a catalyst for psychedelic research in the 1950s and ’60s, there was a broader psychedelic zeitgeist that deserves acknowledgement for setting the stage.
Aday, J. S., Bloesch, E. K., & Davoli, C. C. (2019). Beyond LSD: A broader psychedelic zeitgeist during the early to mid-20th century. Journal of psychoactive drugs51(3), 210-217., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2019.1581961
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Beyond LSD: A Broader Psychedelic Zeitgeist during the Early to Mid-20th Century.

Abstract

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a tremendous surge in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs. When discussing this period of research, the discovery of the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 is often presented as the main, and sometimes only, driving force of the boom in research. This “Great Person,” or “Great Chemical,” historiographical lens fails to acknowledge other factors that were fundamental in setting the stage for the research. In particular, other psychedelic drugs, such as mescaline, were already being probed for their uses in psychotherapy and as models for psychosis before the effects of LSD had been discovered. Psilocybin and other classical psychedelics had also been discovered by Western researchers around the same time as the synthesis of LSD. Additionally, many of the dominant zeitgeists (e.g., pharmacological, psychoanalytic, and humanistic) in psychology during this period were congruent with psychedelic research. This article argues that while the discovery of LSD may have been a catalyst for psychedelic research in the 1950s and ’60s, there was a broader psychedelic zeitgeist that deserves acknowledgement for setting the stage.
Aday, J. S., Bloesch, E. K., & Davoli, C. C. (2019). Beyond LSD: A Broader Psychedelic Zeitgeist during the Early to Mid-20th Century. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-8., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2019.1581961
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27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights

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