Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder

This prospective survey study (n=28) found significant improvements in depression and well-being scores after psychedelics use for those with eating disorders (EDs).


Purpose Psychedelic therapy is showing promise for a broad range of mental health conditions, indicative of a transdiagnostic action. While the efficacy of symptom-focused treatments for eating disorders (EDs) is limited, improved mental health and psychological wellbeing are thought to contribute to greater treatment outcomes. This study provides the first quantitative exploration of the psychological effects of psychedelics in those reporting an ED diagnosis.

Methods Prospective, online data were collected from individuals planning to take a psychedelic drug. Twenty-eight participants reporting a lifetime ED diagnosis completed measures of depressive symptomology (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology; QIDS-SR16) and psychological wellbeing (Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale; WEMWBS) 1–2 weeks before, and 2 weeks after a psychedelic experience. Twenty-seven of these participants also completed a measure of emotional breakthrough [Emotional Breakthrough Inventory (EBI)] in relation to the acute psychedelic experience.

Results Bayesian t-tests demonstrated overwhelming evidence for improvements in depression and wellbeing scores following the psychedelic experience. Marginal evidence was also found for a correlation between emotional breakthrough and the relevant mental health improvements.

Conclusion These findings provide supportive evidence for positive psychological aftereffects of a psychedelic experience that are relevant to the treatment of EDs. It is hoped that this will encourage further research and will bolster initiatives to directly examine the safety and efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy as a treatment of EDs in future clinical trials.”

Authors: Meg J. Spriggs, Hannes Kettner & Robin L. Carhart-Harris


“The current study provides the first quantitative exploration of the psychological aftereffects of a psychedelic experience in those reporting a lifetime diagnosis of an ED. In interpreting this study, it is important to emphasise the preliminary nature of the results which require replication and further exploration in future controlled trials. Consistent with previous studies in clinical and non-clinical populations, the results demonstrate overwhelming evidence for improvements in both depression symptomology (QIDS-SR16) and psychological wellbeing (WEMWBS) two weeks after a psychedelic experience.”

Clinical studies are planned for 2021 which should shed more light onto the mechanisms in a more controlled environment. This study does however points out (again) that psychedelics have a positive effect on those suffering from mental anguish. Further study is needed, but surely also warranted.

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