According to statistics, 20.4% of the American adult population in the United States experiences chronic pain. That’s more than 1 in 5 individuals! Research has also found that 8% of American adults struggle with high-impact chronic pain that significantly impacts their quality of life. It puts them at the risk of developing recurring aches and reduces their mobility, especially as they age.
Recently, psychedelic drugs have gained recognition for their therapeutic effects. Can these be used for treating chronic pain? Let’s take a closer look.
The Mechanism of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain has a complex mechanism that’s still not fully understood by scientists. Countless studies have shown that when a person experiences chronic pain, their visceral and somatic pain signals adversely impact their neural circuitry. Over time, the pain signals experienced can cause central and peripheral sensitization. This manifests in the form of both physical and emotional pain.
This mechanism explains why individuals struggling with chronic pain describe it as more than just physical pain. It has cognitive components alongside physical components and results in conditions such as phantom-limb pain, tinnitus, regional pain disorder, and cluster headaches.
Currently, chronic pain is treated via prescribed medication that comprises opioids and antidepressants. Unfortunately, continued use of either of these medications can become an addictive practice for patients. This is where psychedelics come into the picture for chronic pain treatment.
The Role of Psychedelics
Psychedelic drugs have strong mind-altering compounds that can impact specific regions within the brain that are responsible for functional connectivity. Serotonin 2A(5-HT2A) receptor agonism plays a crucial role in “resetting” the central neuropathic states. Microdosing psychedelic drugs help reduce pain perception among individuals, thereby increasing their pain tolerance. Thus, psychedelics act as analgesics and help reverse the effects of chronic pain on the neural connections during neuropathic states.
Unlike opioids, psychedelics aren’t addictive. Using these drugs in moderation helps in delivering long-lasting and potent results against chronic pain. While more research is required on the effect of psychedelics on chronic pain, previous studies have shown immense potential for them being used for chronic pain treatments.
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