Obesity, Eating disorders, and psilocybin
Researchers are constantly exploring psilocybin with hopes of finding new therapeutic uses for the substance. A recently concluded study highlights the potential for psilocybin to offer long-term benefits for treating obesity and eating disorder.
Before we examine this research, let’s go through binge eating disorders and obesity.
Everything About Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Obesity
One of the most common types of eating disorders is binge eating disorder. This disorder affects many people, even more than bulimia and anorexia. Binge eating disorder is common in men and women, but reports highlight that it’s higher in women.
The disorder is also common in children and adults, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender, geographic region, and income level. Binge eating disorder is also linked with trauma and other similar experiences. People experiencing these conditions usually use eating as a coping means.
Another thing to note about binge eating disorders is that it’s also mental health conditions. Many treatment options are available, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, and different medicines.
Identifying Binge Eating Disorder
People with eating disorders usually don’t know that they have this condition. Sometimes, they are ashamed to share their condition or seek help. One of the reasons why people are ashamed to ask for help is the stigma it comes with. With that, they tend to believe getting help is a rather paralyzing prospect.
Here are some of the symptoms of binge eating disorder:
- Using food to cope
- Frantic or frenzied feelings around food
- Loss of control over food consumption
In most cases, they get these episodes in addition to shame, the need for isolation and secrecy, and humiliation. For other people, it’s usually a cycle that follows depression, shame, guilt, and anxiety. Many people experience this condition today, describing it as a spectrum of different experiences.
The main thing to remember is that the BED is more than just overeating. Most people have experienced emotional eating or overeating at some point, but that would not be considered an eating disorder. Someone with a BED will be more likely to feel the need to satisfy an unidentifiable need. This comes with the drive to consume anything or soothe a deep injury.
Binge Eating Disorder and Obesity
One of the most common and long-term effects of binge eating, weight cycling, and restrictive eating is obesity. People with BED tend to have large bodies and usually have to deal with the stigma.
When it comes to the negative social cues for obesity, there are a couple of things to consider, which are:
- The shame and the need to keep their mental health and food secret.
- Thoughts of never feeling good enough, whether in public or in private
These are mostly the feelings that come with BED and obesity.
Now that you already know what BED is like, you might be wondering how to treat the condition. People with this disorder usually seek solutions to help them lose weight, which is not right. Even though weight changes are common, treatment options should not only be targeted at the diet.
Treatment options are aimed at addressing the underlying cause of food use. This can be the inability to prioritize self, poor coping skills, low self-esteem, stress, and feelings of failure. There are also different substances that people use for this disorder. This brings us to the goal of this article, which is to review current research on the use of psilocybin for eating disorders and obesity.
Obesity is Common and Costly in the U.S
In the United States today, one of the most presenting medical conditions is Obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 42% of adults are affected by the condition from 2017 to 2020. This prevalence is 40% in adults between 20 to 39, 45% in adults between 40 to 59, and 42% in adults older than 60.
There are many health conditions associated with obesity. They include diabetes type 2, stroke, heart disease, some cancer, and even premature death. In 2019, an estimate of more than $170 billion in medical costs was for obesity alone. This is around $1,900 for each person with obesity.
Also, the condition is treatment-resistant, in addition to its similarity to addiction. Also, reward circuitry and homeostatic dysfunctions make it difficult for patients to adhere to drug or lifestyle interventions. It’s generally known that psychedelics can improve the neural circuit’s plasticity. Therefore, combining psychedelics with behavioral therapy may give interesting results.
Another thing worth noting is that psychedelics affect the serotonergic system. Also, their effect could directly influence food intake via the 5-HT receptors.
Review of the Study on the Long-term Benefits of Psilocybin for Eating Disorders and Obesity
There are many amazing findings around the use of psilocybin for different physical and mental conditions.
Among these findings is research highlighting its potential to treat people with addiction. Psilocybin works by triggering a form of reset that makes it easier for the person to reset their cravings. There is so much research around this area, which makes scientists wonder if psilocybin would work for eating disorders and obesity. These scientists believe psilocybin could be effective for food addiction.
Overview of the Research
A key thing to note is that the research is by researchers affiliated with the University of Copenhagen.
There is so much evidence suggesting the potential of psilocybin to treat many mental health conditions. Based on this evidence, researchers now study the effects of psilocybin on obesity and eating disorders. Previous research continuously shows that psychedelics are effective for conditions like addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
A 2021 study highlights that people who have tried classic psychedelic drugs have a low chance of being obese or overweight. The study we’ll review below was by scientists affiliated with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. These researchers used mice to determine the potential for psilocybin to affect food cravings.
For their investigation, they used mouse models of diet-induced obesity, genetic obesity, and binge eating disorder. Their initial findings highlight that daily microdosing or a single high dose of psilocybin won’t cause any reduction in food intake or weight. Even though they weren’t able to find evidence to support their hypothesis, they encouraged further research.
One of the main challenges of this study is that there’s no research to study the effects of psilocybin on human food cravings. The focus of the recent study was to examine the long-term and acute effects of psilocybin on mice feeding behavior. Rodents were used to check if psilocybin impacts human obesity in the study.
According to one of the study’s authors (Christoffer Clemmensen), obesity is a treatment-resistant disease. Also, the neuropathology of obesity is like addiction and other mental disorders. He also adds that psychedelics can help to improve neural circuit plasticity. In his words, combining psychedelics with behavioral therapy is a powerful tool for long-term effects.
Another aspect to consider is that psychedelic substances act on the serotonergic system and activate serotonin receptors. This helps in relieving cravings and addiction.
Basically, researchers used mouse models to check if psilocybin can alter behaviors and change food intake. These rodents had binge-eating disorders, diet-induced obesity, and genetic obesity.
One of the fascinating things about the research is that there were no effects after administering high doses of psilocybin. This was the case after administering a daily microdose. They didn’t observe any visible changes in food behavior or physical changes like metabolism and weight.
Also, there was no significant information about the effects of psilocybin on behavior and energy metabolism in mice. Clemmensen also highlights that rodents are not enough to capture all the nuances of the mechanism of psychedelic action.
As mentioned earlier, obesity is a treatment-resistant disease, and neuropathology is like that of other mental disorders. Also, an alteration in the functioning of the brain’s reward circuitry causes relapses and failure to stop using substances. These substances can also include some foods.
The role of psychedelics in all this lies in their ability to increase neural circuit plasticity. This mechanism can be applied to treating eating disorders and obesity, even though the study didn’t give supporting claims.
To conclude the research, Clemmensen states his excitement about the topic of psychedelics for eating disorders and obesity. Now is the time to start considering the benefits of psilocybin for different patients and applying for these benefits.
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