We’re continuing to learn more about the potential medical applications of psychedelic substances like psilocybin, and while much of the conversation so far has been focused on conditions like treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, a recent study is broadening the scope.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, took a closer look at adverse childhood experiences as an “elevated risk for psychological distress,” specifically looking at how psilocybin may work to counter these effects. It was authored by researchers at Simon Fraser University, Athabasca University, University of British Columbia and University of Michigan.
Researchers found that the use of psilocybin can help to ease psychological distress in people who had adverse experiences as children, indicating that psilocybin appeared to hold “particularly strong benefits to those with more severe childhood adversity.”
Exploring Psilocybin and Healing From Childhood Trauma
“In recent years, renewed interest in psychedelic medicine has highlighted the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for those who have experienced childhood adversity,” authors mention in the study abstract. “However, recreational psilocybin use remains illegal and access to approved therapies is difficult. Such use provides an opportunity to explore the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for psychological distress among people with adverse childhood experiences.”
For that reason, researchers surveyed 1,249 people in Canada over the age of 16 who completed a questionnaire used to assess experiences of childhood trauma. Participants were also asked about psilocybin use, including the last time they consumed it, frequency of psilocybin use and how strong the doses were.
The study found that the effect of adverse childhood experiences on psychological distress was lower for participants who had used psilocybin in the last three months compared to those who had not. Researchers said this suggests a “potential benefit” of psilocybin in treating the psychological consequences of adverse childhood experiences.
Nearly half of respondents (49.9%) said they often or always used psilocybin to address mental health or emotional challenges, and 32.3% said they sometimes used psilocybin for those reasons. Those who scored high for adverse childhood experiences were also much more likely to use psilocybin for mental health. Those who did not use psilocybin in the past 12 months cited reasons like not knowing where to get psilocybin (41.5%), being afraid of legal repercussions about consuming psilocybin (82.9%), and being worried about a bad trip or negative experience while using (48.1%).
Psilocybin: ‘Strong Benefits’ for Survivors of Adverse Childhood Experiences
Researchers also said that there “appears to be a dose response effect,” in that more exposure to psychedelics was associated with a greater psychological effect and improvements to psychological well-being.
Authors also said that “feasibility studies suggest that psilocybin has a good safety profile and low addiction potential, particularly at low doses and even among those with complex psychiatric needs.” Still, they said that psilocybin use “outside of the care of a provider” may result in adverse experiences like bad trips.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that psilocybin therapy may be potentially acceptable and may feasibly help in supporting survivors of adverse childhood experiences with particularly strong benefits to those with more severe childhood adversity,” authors said.
Expanding the Scope of Psychedelic Knowledge
They also noted that their findings were in line with other published search, naming a study of more than 213,000 U.S. adults which concluded that lifetime use of psilocybin was linked with lower odds of a past-year major depressive episode.
It’s just one study among a growing base of research, increasingly showing the promise of psychedelic substances for mental health treatments. Along with the myriad studies showing psilocybin, and other psychedelics’, potential in treating often hard-to-treat mental health conditions, another recent study found that using psilocybin outside of a clinical setting was associated with mental health benefits including decreases in anxiety and depression.
Another study looked more broadly at MDMA use with psilocybin and LSD, finding that co-using the trio of substances led some study participants to experience increased feelings of compassion, love and gratitude.