Recent research has found that psychedelics could help weight loss. In particular psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms.
Much research is being conducted into psychedelic plant medicines for the treatment of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Now researchers have turned their attention to whether psychedelics could help tackle obesity.
HOW COULD PSYCHEDELICS HELP WEIGHT LOSS?
It’s understood that psychedelics reduce activity in the brain’s default mode network. This is a network of habitual pathways that communicate between brain regions.
We tend to default to the tracks that have been built up over time, making it harder to take any path other than the ones already established. It’s understood that the default mode network is overactive in conditions including depression, anxiety, and OCD.
By reducing default mode network activity, psychedelics may allow for a break from deeply ingrained psychological patterns. They may act to increase brain neuroplasticity, creativity and allow for the setting of new tracks.
When we work with clients, an important part of our work is focussed on the behavioural change aspect of our client’s relationship with food. Defaulting to deeply ingrained, unsupportive habits around food can sabotage weight loss as well as long term weight maintenance.
Psychedelics have the potential to support weight loss by providing a way to enhance the process of behaviour change through their impact on the default mode network.
ARE PSYCHEDELICS SAFE?
Any drug poses a certain amount of risk, but the risks of psychedelics may be less than you expect.
Professor David Nutt is an English neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in the research of drugs. He was formerly an advisor to the government and held a position position in the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
In 2007, Professor Nutt published a study in The Lancet titled Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. It looked at the most commonly used drugs and the harm they cause to individual users and to society. Each drug was scored; the higher the score, the more damaging the drug.
Alcohol rated highest with a score of 72. Heroin and crack cocaine followed with scores of 55 and 54 retrospectively. Mushrooms? They scored a 6, right at the bottom of the scale. LSD scored 7.
Boris Johnson has said he will examine the latest advice on the legalisation of psilocybin after Tory MP Crispin Blunt urged the PM to review the law to allow more research into the drug’s therapeutic qualities.
Psychedelics are currently illegal in the UK. I personally hope that this will change in time, as is happening in other countries where legalisation is occurring.
However, there are countries where the use of plant medicines are legal and an important part of indigenous culture. You may have heard of people travelling to Peru to do ayahauscha or to Mexico for psilocybin (mushroom) retreats. Closer to the UK we have organisations like Synthesis offering offering legal, medically supervised psychedelic retreats in Amsterdam.
The benefits of psychedelic plant medicines are profound and extend far beyond their potential for weight loss and mental health issues. But they must be approached with great care and respect. If you feel called to plant medicines, I would strongly recommend that you do your research and find a reputable, experienced provider who can support you not only during your ceremony or treatment, but also with integration afterwards.
The work you do before and particularly after the ‘trip’ itself are vital. Integration is the process of taking what you have learned or experienced during the trip and integrating it into your life in a beneficial way.
I have personally experienced the profound transformations that can result from psychedelic plant medicines. There is so much more to psychedelics than the ‘frightening-trip-inducing drugs’ story we have been sold.
Growing evidence suggests that psychedelics hold huge potential for helping to address many of the health and wellbeing challenges we are struggling with as a society today, including depression and anxiety.
I have been in a plant medicine ceremony with someone who had been struggling with bulimia for decades. In that one night she felt that she released her eating disorder and believes she is cured. It’s been over a year now since the ceremony and she has not once experienced the desire to purge after eating.
I am particularly excited about the research into how psychedelics could help people develop healthier relationships with food and their body.
FURTHER READING (AND WATCHING)
If you’re interested in taking a deep dive into this fascinating subject, I can highly recommend reading (or listening to) Michael Pollan’s book, How To Change Your Mind: The New Science Of Psychedelics.
There are also documentaries and TV shows to explore including: