The article Psychedelic Research Round-up, by Blossom was originally published on Microdose.
Twice a month, our friends from Blossom update you on the latest in psychedelic research. Enjoy an in-depth look at major studies and updates on recent psychedelic publications.
Flashbacks after psychedelics are common
Flashbacks are recurrent illusions, perceptions or sensations that are experienced by an individual long after drug use. They can occur at any time, without warning.
Common flashback experiences include visual distortions, auditory hallucinations, physical sensations such as tingling or pain, and intense emotions such as fear or euphoria. Flashbacks can also take the form of detailed memories which have been forgotten. Flashbacks can last for seconds or minutes and can be disturbing for the person experiencing them.
Generally, it’s believed that psychedelics don’t have lasting visual or though-disturbances. A recent survey breaks this belief, with up to 86% of participants reporting flashbacks. In the study, people who had used 5-MeO-DMT, arguably the most intense psychedelic, were asked if they had flashbacks.
Among those who had used it intentionally, in a structured ceremonial setting, nearly nine out of ten had flashbacks. This was quite a bit lower for those who had used it recreationally, with still one out of four reporting flashbacks.
Good flashbacks, not bad trips
When asked about the quality of the flashbacks, a very positive picture emerged from the study. Four out of five (in both study groups) reported the flashbacks as something they enjoyed. Only one in twenty (4-7%) saw the flashbacks as negative. This mirrors another recent survey that found only 3% reporting the symptoms as disturbing.
This is where flashbacks differ from Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). With HPPD, people continue to experience perceptual distortions months to years after complete cessation of the initial substance use. Though similar, flashbacks usually only last a short amount of time and become less common in the weeks and months after the psychedelic experience.
If used in a ceremonial setting, 5-MeO-DMT was more likely to produce flashbacks. Other factors also made it more likely for flashbacks to occur. Women, being older at the first time of use, and ascribing more meaning to the experience all correlated with a higher incidence of flashbacks.
Other research into flashbacks and HPPD has been minimal, and this research contributes greatly to understanding how much it happens and how it’s perceived by psychonauts. Clinical studies on the benefits of psychedelics should take care to also investigate flashbacks and inform participants about the possibility of them occurring.
More psychedelic research news…
Repeated psilocybin trips to stop cluster headaches
Cluster headache is a relatively rare headache disorder characterized by very intense bouts of headaches (also named ‘suicide headaches’). Psychedelics have been reported to produce lasting reductions in headache burden after a single or a few doses.
A small trial investigated these claims by giving 10mg of psilocybin (a moderate dose) three times over the course of two weeks. Only nine participants received the treatment, the other participants were given a placebo pill. The participants in the study reported lower incidences of cluster headaches, but because the trial was small, the difference between the groups was not significant.
Reductions in chronic pain following MDMA-assisted therapy
A follow-up analysis of the MAPS phase 2 trial finds that chronic pain scores for participants went down significantly. Chronic pain affects over 20% of Americans and even more people worldwide. Common treatments include the use of opioids, with all the known consequences from that.
The MAPS study didn’t focus exclusively on pain, but measures of pain were taken. The results indicate that the treatment protocol was also able to relieve pain. One of the underlying mechanisms is the opening of a neuroplastic window, though other explanations could also explain why pain was reduced.
A new gold standard for dosing psilocybin
An analysis of data from 77 people finds that the body mass index (BMI) doesn’t influence the intensity of a psilocybin trip. For the last ten years, researchers have been basing the dosing mostly on body weight. This would mean that a person weighing more, would get a higher dose.
Weight-based dosing still makes sense for MDMA and ketamine, but for classical psychedelics, it seems weight doesn’t influence receptivity.