Could the combination of CBD and psilocybin be a breakthrough for PTSD?
The research community is slowly opening up to the idea of psychedelics in medicine. Psychedelics were a popular topic in the 1950s and 60s. But, in the 1970s, research had almost entirely dried up thanks to a dramatic shift in federal policy. Researchers are now heading back to the lab to reevaluate psychedelics for the treatment of mental health conditions. After all this time, the potential of these natural compounds is still undeniable.
In the last five years, Clinicaltrials.gov reports several completed psilocybin clinical trials, with almost thirty new trials coming up. One of the new proposals into CBD and psilocybin comes from researchers in the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. Their new study aims to investigate the therapeutic potential of CBD and psilocybin on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin
The current psilocybin-focused clinical research covers a range of mental health conditions, many of which often fail to respond to pharmaceutical treatment options. These include major depressive disorder, anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction. These new studies build on a growing body of work, showing how psilocybin helps reorganize neural networks and stimulate potential “breakthrough experiences.”
As only one example from the recent wave of psilocybin research comes from the journal of Arch Gen Psychiatry. In 2011, it published the “Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer.” Through this study, researchers wanted “to explore the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in patients with advanced-stage cancer and reactive anxiety.”
Under a double-blind, placebo-controlled, protocol, the researchers worked with twelve patients in advanced stages of prognosis. The study determined the safety and feasibility of moderate doses of psilocybin. But, it also found the treatments seemed to have correspondingly long-lasting benefits for the participants. Firstly, they detailed a significant reduction in anxiety one to three months after treatment. Secondly, they recorded an improvement in mood roughly six months following treatment. 1)Grob CS, Danforth AL, Chopra GS, et al. Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(1):71-78. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116
Psychedelics seem to have an incredible ability to help people reprocess trauma, increase emotional capacity, and improve mood. Accordingly, this comes without the adverse effects that commonly associate with pharmaceutical options. This is why the researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine plan to investigate the potential of CBD and psilocybin for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Psilocybin and PTSD
PTSD is a mental health condition characterized by anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts triggered by a past traumatic event. Common symptoms include: avoidance tactics, changes to physical and emotional reactions, negative changes to mood, and intrusive memories. To date, there are only two approved pharmaceutical medications, “both of which have demonstrated limited efficacy,” according to the authors of “Reviewing the Potential of Psychedelics for the Treatment of PTSD.” 2)Erwin Krediet, Tijmen Bostoen, Joost Breeksema, Annette van Schagen, Torsten Passie, Eric Vermetten, Reviewing the Potential of Psychedelics for the Treatment of PTSD, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 23, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 385–400, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyaa018
Based on the growing body of evidence on psychedelics for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, authors Erwin Krediet, Tijmen Bostoen, et al. propose psilocybin as a potential new therapeutic approach to treat PTSD.
As they outline, “Both psilocybin and DMT have been shown to facilitate fear extinction in animal studies and to promote neural plasticity in vivo and vitro, increasing neurogenesis, spinogenesis, and synaptogenesis.” To translate, this means the psychedelic substance in magic mushrooms helps develop new nerve cells, neurons, and the synapses between the two.
A New Treatment for PTSD?
Krediet, Bostoen et al. outline the rationale behind the introduction of psychedelics for PTSD. As they summarize psychedelics, “catalyze the psychotherapeutic process, for example, by increasing the capacity for emotional and cognitive processing through pharmacologically diminishing fear and arousal, by strengthening therapeutic alliance through increased trust and rapport, or by targeting processes of fear extinction and memory consolidation.”
Taking this research one step further, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in partnership with Tassili Life Sciences, recently announced their intention to look at CBD and psilocybin to treat PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Moreover, patients frequently experience these two conditions together, and their comorbidity exasperates recovery times. The team hopes to create a new pill that not only treats these issues individually, but also collectively.
CBD and PTSD
Why CBD? Cannabidiol (CBD) as a non-intoxicant is especially useful for therapeutic applications. Further, according to Krediet, Bostoen, et al., “Cannabinoids act on the endocannabinoid system, which plays a central role in emotional memories and is a crucial mediator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response under stress.” They also note that both THC and CBD can reduce fear extinction, a common issue in the treatment of PTSD.
Regarding mTBI, animal models demonstrate the remarkable capacity of CBD to help reduce the severity of sensorial and mood disorders related to mTBI nerve damage. As per a study on mice published in Frontiers of Pharmacology in 2019, “CBD oral treatment restored the behavioral alterations and partially normalized the cortical biochemical changes.” CBD’s brain-healing property is now under intense investigation in sports medicine. 3)Belardo, C., Iannotta, M., Boccella, S., Rubino, R. C., Ricciardi, F., Infantino, R., . . . Guida, F. (2019). Oral Cannabidiol Prevents Allodynia and Neurological Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 10. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00352
CBD and Psilocybin Offer a Unique Combination for PTSD and mTBI
With the advances in medical cannabis research over the last few decades, people are willing to reassess the therapeutic potential of formerly illicit substances. Substances like CBD and psilocybin are losing their taboo in medicine. Basically, a lot of that comes thanks to investigations into their potential to heal chronic conditions.
According to the early clinical research on both these substances, they seem immensely useful. They may help in treating lifelong conditions that are treatment-resistant for conventional pharmaceuticals. Plus, both CBD and psilocybin are well tolerated in clinical trials, and have little to no risk of addiction.
Over the next nine to twelve months, the team behind the new study of PTSD and mTBI will work towards a proof-of-concept. They’ll also investigate optimal dosing and timing.
Once complete, stay tuned here for the launch of the clinical trial and the call for participants.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Grob CS, Danforth AL, Chopra GS, et al. Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(1):71-78. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116|
|2.||↑||Erwin Krediet, Tijmen Bostoen, Joost Breeksema, Annette van Schagen, Torsten Passie, Eric Vermetten, Reviewing the Potential of Psychedelics for the Treatment of PTSD, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 23, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 385–400, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyaa018|
|3.||↑||Belardo, C., Iannotta, M., Boccella, S., Rubino, R. C., Ricciardi, F., Infantino, R., . . . Guida, F. (2019). Oral Cannabidiol Prevents Allodynia and Neurological Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 10. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00352|