Chronic Pain Management
Psilocybin, LSD, and other psychedelic drugs are promising for managing mental health conditions. However, there are now new interests in using these substances for managing pain. In this article, I’ll take you through what you should know about psychedelics and pain management.
Here’s how the International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain:
Pain is an unpleasant emotional and/or sensory experience associated with potential or actual tissue damage.
Pain sensation comes from nerves that transmit signals to the brain to alert it of tissue or organ damage. The brain then transmits signals to the respective muscles or organs for appropriate action.
Medically, there are two categories of pain, which are:
- Acute Pain: This is a temporary form of pain that resolves quickly. It’s a useful form of pain as it alerts the body of possible damage. This is also vital as it enhances healing.
- Chronic Pain: Unlike acute pain, this is a more severe type that takes longer to resolve. In some cases, it occurs after acute pain and may last for three to six months or more. Chronic pain is not useful as it takes a longer time to resolve. Sometimes the pain is without any underlying injury or damage. Also, chronic pain can cause loss of function, despair, depression, and helplessness.
Treatment of Chronic Pain
Pain treatment starts with assessing the severity and determining the presence of an injury. Sometimes, it may include a musculoskeletal or neurological examination and imaging tests to confirm that there’s no serious cause. Initial pain treatment is mostly conservative and may include the use of cold, heat, ice, or over-the-counter drugs.
The next treatment approach involves a combination of prescription medications and physical therapy. If this approach does not work, the next approach is interventional pain management. The treatment approach will include surgical management in cases of neurological deficit or loss of function.
It’s worth mentioning that interventional pain management is an important approach even after surgery.
Psychedelics and Chronic Pain
For a few years, different research shows how promising psychedelics are for mental health conditions. One of the most promising substances is psilocybin, and it’s promising for anxiety, addiction, and depression. As a matter of fact, psilocybin was assigned a Breakthrough Therapy by the FDA in 2018.
In response, different academic and health organizations came together to launch the Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative (PHRI). The aim was to study the potential of psychedelics, especially psilocybin, and how they can help pain management.
Most of the research on psychedelics shows their effectiveness for psychological disorders. There are only a few that show how they help in treating pain conditions. Recent research by one of the PHRI members suggests the potential of psychedelics in managing pain.
Pain has cognitive and affective components, which is why findings suggest the usefulness of psychedelics in its management. This is regardless of it being used alone or with other treatment options. Whichever the case may be, the substance can also produce a meaningful, lasting, and significant reduction in chronic pain.
Examples of cases of chronic pain include phantom limb pain, cluster headache, tinnitus, complex regional pain disorder, and more. All the current research results show that psychedelics are a revolutionary option for treating pain.
People suffering from conditions like cluster headaches and fibromyalgia are giving reports about their experiences with hallucinogenic drugs. Scientists are now exploring the use of these substances in treating pain.
From the findings about the potential of psychedelic drugs to transform mental health, researchers are committed to finding new results. What’s certain is that the benefits of these substances cannot be completely ignored.
It’s becoming clearer on a daily basis that these substances are actually live changing substances. What’s more, is that there’s a need to rebrand and integrate these substances into our healthcare systems. However, the current stigma around these substances makes means it might take a while before this happens.
Today, more and more research continues to suffice, with increased interest in psilocybin for pain management.
History of Pain and Psychedelics
There are so many records of the use of psychedelics for managing pain. One of the earliest of these records was by Eric Kast in 1938. He had a long interest in pain responses, and in 1962, he created an apparatus to let a subject apply a pain-producing element to their leg.
Eric’s attention later shifted to the use of psychedelic LSD for pain. He started by giving this substance to 50 seriously ill patients with chronic pain from different causes. The subjects were to first take hydromorphone and meperidine before LSD, which is a strong psychoactive dose to take.
Compared to LSD, the two drugs didn’t have as much analgesic action. This was the beginning of more interesting findings. A recent report by Fadel Zeidan in 2020 weighed the evidence of psychedelics in relieving pain. He was able to propose a mechanism of action, which is via 5-HT2A. There is much recent research that relates this to chronic pain management.
It’s worth noting that Serotonin plays a role in pain modulation in the spinal cord. However, there is very little evidence to support this mechanism. A lot of other research work hypothesizes serotonin as a major pain mediator, which justifies the use of psychedelics for pain management.
According to various research teams, current studies will help better understand the use of psychedelics for pain. It also forms a basis for understanding how they can produce their effect and mechanism of action. These advances will also provide a sufficient guide for various healthcare systems to adapt to the mode of intervention.
Pain can be tricky and, at the same time, difficult to bear. However, the different evidence on using psychedelics to manage pain also proves promising.
The interest in psilocybin continues to grow, and research continues to yield promising results. From its use in mental health conditions to pain management, it’s certainly becoming a revolutionary substance.
There’s also more to find out about psilocybin, so we recommend checking our blog. Here we have covered different topics, which include reviews of different research works. This includes using psilocybin for pain, addiction, anxiety, and more.
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