Psychedelics as a Novel Approach to Treating Autoimmune Conditions

This literature review (2020) argues that psychedelics may be used to treat autoimmune conditions. This may be done via inflammatory pathways, immune modulation or other methods.


“With a rise in the incidence of autoimmune diseases (AiD), health care providers continue to seek out more efficacious treatment approaches for the AD patient population. Classic serotonergic psychedelics have recently been gaining public and professional interest as novel interventions to a number of mental health afflictions. Psychedelics have also been shown to be able to modulate immune functions, however, while there has been great interest to researching into their psychotherapeutic applications, there has so far been very little exploration into the potential to treat inflammatory and immune-related diseases with these compounds. A handful of studies from a variety of fields suggest that psychedelics do indeed have effects in the body that may attenuate the outcome of AD. This literature review explores existing evidence that psychedelic compounds may offer a potential novel application in the treatment of pathologies related to autoimmunity. We propose that psychedelics hold the potential to attenuate or even resolve autoimmunity by targeting psychosomatic origins, maladaptive chronic stress responses, inflammatory pathways, immune modulation and enteric microbiome populations.”

Authors: Caitlin Thompson & Attila Szabo


Key points highlighted by the authors:

  • “Classic/serotonergic psychedelic compounds display immunomodulatory properties
  • Psychosocial stress may contribute to the development of ADs
  • The gut microbiota modulates physiological pathways involved in stress
  • Modulation of the gut microbiome by psychedelics may influence immune functions
  • Normalization of physiological stress responses may be key in the application of psychedelics to treat ADs”

Autoimmune diseases (AiD/ADs) affect about 20% (50 million) of Americans. Currently, there are many hypotheses about how ADs are linked to mental health disorders such as depression (MDD), schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. This paper also makes the link between the correlation of ADs and mental disorders. This could even be causal as inflammation itself may lead to depression.

The paper does a great job of summarizing what we know about psychedelics and their effect on the immune system. This contributes a great deal to the biological (not only focused on the brain – and next to psychological/subjective) effects of psychedelics.

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