Psychedelics and health behaviour change

This theory-building paper (2021) argues for the positive impact that psychedelic use can have on health behaviors. Current trials are using psychedelics for mental health disorders, but future studies could look further to improvements in diet, exercise, nature exposure and other behaviours that promote physical and psychological well-being.

Abstract

Healthful behaviours such as maintaining a balanced diet, being physically active and refraining from smoking have major impacts on the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other serious conditions. The burden of the so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’—in personal suffering, premature mortality and public health costs—is considerable. Consequently, interventions designed to promote healthy behaviours are increasingly being studied, e.g., using psychobiological models of behavioural regulation and change. In this article, we explore the notion that psychedelic substances such as psilocybin could be used to assist in promoting positive lifestyle change conducive to good overall health. Psilocybin has a low toxicity, is non-addictive and has been shown to predict favourable changes in patients with depression, anxiety and other conditions marked by rigid behavioural patterns, including substance (mis)use. While it is still early days for modern psychedelic science, research is advancing fast and results are promising. Here we describe psychedelics’ proposed mechanisms of action and research findings pertinent to health behaviour change science, hoping to generate discussion and new research hypotheses linking the two areas. Therapeutic models including psychedelic experiences and common behaviour change methods (e.g., Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Motivational Interviewing) are already being tested for addiction and eating disorders. We believe this research may soon be extended to help promote improved diet, exercise, nature exposure and also mindfulness or stress reduction practices, all of which can contribute to physical and psychological health and well-being.

Authors: Pedro J. Teixeira, Matthew W. Johnson, Christopher Timmermann, Rosalind Watts, David Erritzoe, Hannah Douglass, Hannes Ketner & Robin L. Carhart-Harris

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Find this paper

Psychedelics and health behaviour change

https://doi.org/10.1177%2F02698811211008554

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Published in
Journal of Psychopharmacology
May 29, 2021
0 citations

Study details

Topics studied
Neuroscience

Study characteristics
Theory Building

Authors

Authors associated with this publication with profiles on Blossom

Pedro Texeira
Pedro Teixeira is Full Professor of Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Health at the University of Lisbon, Faculty of Human Kinetics; and Director of Research at The Synthesis Institute.

Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. His research is concerned with addiction medicine, drug abuse, and drug dependence.

Chris Timmermann
Chris Timmerman is a postdoc at Imperial College London. His research is mostly focussed on DMT.

Rosalind Watts
Rosalind Watts is a clinical psychologist and clinical lead at the Psychedelics Research Group at Imperial College London. She is also known for developing the 'Accept, Connect, Embody' psychedelic therapy model.

David Erritzoe
David Erritzoe is the clinical director of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. His work focuses on brain imaging (PET/(f)MRI).

Robin Carhart-Harris
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is the Founding Director of the Neuroscape Psychedelics Division at UCSF. Previously he led the Psychedelic group at Imperial College London.

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