How Psychedelics Work

So, how do they work?

The honest answer is scientists and the world don’t fully know yet…BUT a renaissance of research in the field is on its way!

The lack of information can be attributed to the banishment of psilocybin (hallucinogenic drug found in psychedelic mushrooms) and LSD by the government in the 1970s, which halted its research since that period.

But, thanks to a sudden and recent renaissance in psychedelic research, we are beginning to learn what happens to the brain during and after a “trip”.

The drug science

LSD and similar compounds are found to fit certain receptor sights in charge of the release of serotonin.

Receptors are sites in the brain in which molecular compounds (in this case the psychedelic drug) bind to release another chemical found in your body. In an LSD trip for instance, the hallucinogen clings to this receptor (called the serotonin 5-HT2A) and the receptor triggers the neuron in your brain to release serotonin, the happy hormone.

This image shows the similarity between the hallucinogenic LSD compound and the serotonin compound. They are very similar in their structure, which is why LSD produces a heightened feeling of happiness and bliss.

Psychedelics as medicine for the soul

It has been found that psychedelics connect new neurological pathways in the brain, making the brain make new connections that had never been exercised before.

These images show brain activity and represent the neural connections that are made during a psychedelic trip.

FMRI brain scan which compares a brain under psychedelic treatment and in a sober state. The brighter colors indicate levels of brain activity.
This image showcases the differences in quantity of neural pathways between a sober brain and a brain under the influence of psychedelics.

Studies show that people who take psychedelic drugs activate a neural pathway that is underworked. This neural pathway located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is involved in things like self-reflection, theory of mind, mental time travel, auto biographical memory, among other characteristics.

Therefore, it makes sense that these new pathways allow people to heal and work through psychological difficulties, as the drug allows them to solve their problems with a new set of exercised neural connections to aid in their healing process.

Psychedelics as medicine for the body

Not only have these types of compounds been found to heal the soul, but studies have shown that regular minute doses of LSD and similar compounds have enormous anti-inflammatory effects, potentially offering alternative treatments to everything from asthma to migraine headaches.

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