Imperial College London Researchers: Psychedelics Impact Sexual Satisfaction Long-Term

New findings published in Nature Scientific Reports suggest that psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, could enhance sexual function, even months following a psychedelic encounter.

Psychedelics Boost Sex

The study, conducted by researchers at Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, analyzed data from a survey of 261 participants before and after their psychedelic experiences. Combining these findings with results from a separate clinical trial comparing psilocybin with a commonly prescribed antidepressant, the study represents the first formal exploration of psychedelics’ effects on sexual functioning.

Lead author Tommaso Barba emphasizes that the study doesn’t focus on sexual performance during psychedelic use but suggests a lasting positive impact on sexual function post-experience, potentially benefiting psychological well-being.

Authors observed that sexual dysfunction is prevalent among individuals with mental health disorders and is also a common side effect of certain medications, such as SSRIs.

“In appearance, this line of inquiry might appear unconventional,” remarked Barba in a statement. “However, the psychological dimensions of sexual function—encompassing self-perception, attraction to partners, and the ability to forge intimate connections—are all pivotal for the psychological well-being of sexually active adults.”

Co-author Giribaldi noted that while most studies examine whether depression treatments induce sexual dysfunction, this research sought to delve deeper.

“Our aim was to delve beyond the surface and investigate various facets of sexuality potentially influenced by these treatments,” Giribaldi elaborated. “We aimed to ascertain whether psychedelics could positively impact individuals’ sexual experiences, as suggested by existing anecdotal evidence.”

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According to the team’s analysis, individuals tended to observe enhancements in sexual function for up to six months following a psychedelic encounter. These improvements encompassed heightened enjoyment of sex, increased sexual arousal, greater satisfaction with sexual experiences, enhanced attraction to partners, improved self-perception, enhanced communication, and a deeper sense of connection.

“Naturalistic use of psychedelics was associated with improvements in several facets of sexual functioning and satisfaction, including improved pleasure and communication during sex, satisfaction with one’s partner and physical appearance.”

The most notable enhancements revolved around perceiving sex as a “spiritual or sacred experience,” increased satisfaction with one’s appearance and partner, and the overall sensation of pleasure itself.

“Sexuality stands as a cornerstone of human nature. For instance, we understand that sexual dysfunction correlates with diminished well-being in individuals, affects relationship contentment, and even intertwines with subjective happiness and the sense of ‘meaning in life,'” remarked Barba.

The sole aspect of sexual function that did not exhibit a significant increase was the “importance of sex,” suggesting that psychedelics did not induce hypersexuality or an excessive fixation on sex.

In the clinical trial segment of the research, where psilocybin therapy was compared to the SSRI escitalopram, the authors noted that while both treatments demonstrated “similar reductions” in depressive symptoms, patients treated with psilocybin reported positive shifts in sexual functioning post-treatment, unlike those treated with escitalopram.

Barba emphasized the significance of this finding, highlighting that “sexual dysfunction, often triggered by antidepressants, frequently leads individuals to discontinue medication, potentially leading to relapse.”

David Erritzoe, clinical director of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, acknowledged the study’s illuminating insights into the extensive impacts of psychedelics on various psychological functions. However, he stressed the ongoing necessity for further investigation, particularly given the current illicit status of psychedelics.

“While the findings are intriguing, we are still some distance from a definitive clinical application,” Erritzoe stated in a release. “Psychedelics have yet to be fully integrated into the medical framework. Perhaps in the future, we may envisage clinical applications, but further research is imperative.”

As outlined in the study itself, “These findings underscore the urgency for additional research employing more comprehensive and validated measures to thoroughly grasp the effects of psychedelics on sexual functioning. Nonetheless, the initial findings do suggest that psychedelics may present a promising tool for disorders affecting sexual functioning.”

Use of Psychedelic Drugs: Impacts on Sexual Function

“Use of psychedelic drugs might foster an improvement in several facets of sexual functioning and satisfaction, including experienced pleasure, sexual satisfaction, communication of sexual desires, and body image.”

The latest research follows closely on the heels of a recent study published by the American Medical Association, which highlighted the apparent “efficacy and safety” of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in addressing bipolar II disorder, a mental health condition often characterized by challenging depressive episodes.

These studies contribute to an expanding body of research showcasing the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and other entheogens in treating various mental health disorders, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

A recent survey in Canada involving over 1,200 patients indicated that psilocybin usage could alleviate psychological distress, particularly in individuals who experienced adverse childhood events, offering notable benefits to those with significant childhood adversity.

Additionally, research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University, and Unlimited Sciences in September revealed that psilocybin use was associated with enduring reductions in depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse,” alongside improvements in emotional regulation, spiritual well-being, and extraversion.

Another study published by the American Medical Association in August demonstrated that individuals with major depression experienced significant and sustained symptom reduction after a single dose of psilocybin.

In the realm of other entheogens, a recent peer-reviewed study published in Nature indicated that MDMA treatment led to symptom alleviation in patients with moderate to severe PTSD, positioning the substance for potential approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In August, a study revealed that administering a small dose of MDMA alongside psilocybin or LSD could mitigate discomfort, such as feelings of guilt and fear, which may accompany the consumption of magic mushrooms or LSD alone.

A groundbreaking analysis released in June provided fresh insights into the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of psychedelic-assisted therapy in aiding individuals grappling with alcoholism.

At the federal level, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently initiated calls for proposals for a series of research endeavors investigating the potential of psychedelics in treating drug addiction, earmarking $1.5 million in funding to support these studies.

Regarding research on controlled substances and sexual health, a study published last year in the Journal of Cannabis Research indicated that marijuana could enhance sexual enjoyment, particularly for women, potentially addressing the “orgasm inequality gap” between genders.

A 2022 study from Spain found that young adults who consumed marijuana and alcohol experienced enhanced orgasms and overall sexual function compared to their peers who abstained or used these substances less frequently.

Furthermore, a 2020 study in the journal Sexual Medicine revealed that women who used cannabis more frequently reported improved sexual experiences.

Several online surveys have corroborated these positive associations between marijuana use and sexual activity. However, a caveat emerged from a literature review published in 2019, which suggested that the impact of cannabis on libido might hinge on dosage. Lower THC levels were linked with heightened arousal and satisfaction, while excessive THC intake could have adverse effects. Despite this, most studies underscored marijuana’s favorable impact.

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