People who have used classic psychedelic drugs even once in their lifetime tend to be physically healthier than non-users, according to a new preliminary study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
In recent years, clinical researchers have discovered that classic psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT have the potential to treat depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues. But although there have been significant advances in research on the mental health aspects of psychedelic use, researchers still don't know a lot about how these drugs might impact physical health.
To shine some new light on this issue, a team of researchers from the UK and US collected data on 171,766 adults who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2018. This annual survey asks respondents to self-report their recent and lifetime drug use and to rate their overall health. Participants are also asked to provide their body mass index (BMI) and report whether they have been diagnosed with cancer, heart problems, or other serious ailments.
“There has recently been promising research on the mental health benefits of classic psychedelics, but very little remains known about how classic psychedelics may impact long-term physical health outcomes,” said Otto Simonsson of the University of Oxford, lead author of the study, to PsyPost. “I’m curious to find out.”
The study authors discovered that people who used any classic psychedelic drug even once in their lifetime were significantly more likely to self-report better overall health, and were also significantly less likely to be obese. Respondents who used psychedelic drugs more than once were also slightly less likely to have been diagnosed with cancer or serious heart conditions in the past 12 months.
Although this is one of the first studies linking psychedelic use to improved physical health, other researchers have found that cannabis users are also healthier, more likely to exercise, and less likely to develop cancer than non-users.
“The findings in the present study suggest that lifetime classic psychedelic use is associated with higher odds of better physical health status, which demonstrates the need for more rigorous research to better understand potential causal pathways of classic psychedelics on physical functioning,” the study authors concluded.
This new study is promising, but due to its correlational nature, researchers cannot conclusively prove that psychedelic use improves physical health. The study authors have theorized that the “transcendent experience occasioned by classic psychedelics” could lead to “long-term changes in health behavior that contribute to better physical health.” It is also entirely possible that people who lead healthier lives are more likely to try psychedelic drugs than people with poorer physical health, though.
“The main question is still whether classic psychedelics positively impacts long-term physical health outcomes, which needs to be tested in double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials,” Simonsson said, according to PsyPost. The researchers also said that they would be open to collaborating with other research teams to further explore this exciting new field of research.