Could Psychedelics Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

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In this blog entitled ‘Could Psychedelics Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?’ I am going to discuss the potential benefit of psychedelics in Alzheimer’s. It is inspired and based on the paper entitled “Psychedelics as a Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia“.

Before we start, other blogs that you might be interested in, include:

It has been estimated that 50 million people have a diagnosis of dementia and this number is rising rapidly. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 50–70% of these cases. We are in dire need of better treatment options, and understanding of the underlying causes. This article is not going to discuss the numerous lifestyle factors that may play a role in both preventing and ameliorating the condition, and focus entirely on the role psychedelics can play (1).

But first what do we know about Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder characterised by:

  • Extracellular amyloid protein deposition
  • Intracellular tau protein aggregates (tangles)

In accumulation, these are associated with a variety of pathological processes including:

  • Microtubular damage
  • Axonal transport disruption
  • And, ultimately, cell death

The hippocampus, a key structure in the ability to learn and retain information and a site for neurogenesis, is particularly vulnerable to damage and one of the earliest parts of the brain to be affected by the disease.

The renaissance in psychedelic research in recent years, in particular studies involving psilocybin and LSD, coupled with anecdotal reports of cognitive benefits from micro-dosing, suggests that they may have a therapeutic role in a range of psychiatric and neurological conditions due to their potential to stimulate neurogenesis, provoke neuroplastic changes, and reduce neuroinflammation. This inevitably makes them interesting candidates for therapeutics in dementia (1).

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How Might Psychedelics Help In Alzheimer’s?

Psychedelics induce brain plasticity and modify connectivity between brain regions and there is considerable anecdotal evidence of cognitive benefits from micro-dosing—a dose that does not cause perceptual change or impair functioning (1).

All known genetic and environmental risk factors for Alzheimer’s are associated with increased inflammation, suggesting that reducing inflammation could be a target for preventing Alzheimer’s. Psychedelics have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties and, given their affinity for the 5HT2A-R, may represent a unique anti-inflammatory overwhelmingly targeted to brain tissue (1).

Psychedelics have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties

Conclusions

More research is obviously required but it seems so promising.

Studies in people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders have demonstrated lasting neuroplastic changes following just one or two large doses of psilocybin.

“This research suggests a potential role for both sub-perceptual ‘‘micro’’- and psychedelic-doses as a strategy for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement in prodromal AD”. (1)

References

  1. Psychedelics as a Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia: click here.
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