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Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder

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Abstract

Purpose: Psychedelic therapy is showing promise for a broad range of mental health conditions, indicative of a transdiagnostic action. While the efficacy of symptom-focused treatments for eating disorders (EDs) is limited, improved mental health and psychological wellbeing are thought to contribute to greater treatment outcomes. This study provides the first quantitative exploration of the psychological effects of psychedelics in those reporting an ED diagnosis. Methods: Prospective, online data were collected from individuals planning to take a psychedelic drug. Twenty-eight participants reporting a lifetime ED diagnosis completed measures of depressive symptomology (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology; QIDS-SR16) and psychological wellbeing (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale; WEMWBS) 1-2 weeks before, and 2 weeks after a psychedelic experience. Twenty-seven of these participants also completed a measure of emotional breakthrough [Emotional Breakthrough Inventory (EBI)] in relation to the acute psychedelic experience. Results: Bayesian t tests demonstrated overwhelming evidence for improvements in depression and wellbeing scores following the psychedelic experience. Marginal evidence was also found for a correlation between emotional breakthrough and the relevant mental health improvements. Conclusion: These findings provide supportive evidence for positive psychological aftereffects of a psychedelic experience that are relevant to the treatment of EDs. It is hoped that this will encourage further research and will bolster initiatives to directly examine the safety and efficacy of psychedelic assisted therapy as a treatment of EDs in future clinical trials. Level of evidence: Level III, cohort study.

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... In addition to the relational processes commonly employed in preparation and aftercare of ceremonial psychedelic use, one can also expect the acute psychedelic state itself to be impacted by the presence of others. However, little to no quantitative empirical research exists on the intersubjective phenomenology of psychedelic states, which is striking considering the substantial body of literature indicating a crucial role of the acute psychedelic state mediating the long-term psychological outcomes of psychedelic substance use (MacLean et al., 2011;Uthaug et al., 2018a;Haijen et al., 2018;Roseman et al., 2018;Kettner et al., 2019a;Roseman et al., 2019;Uthaug et al., 2019;Spriggs et al., 2020). Whereas psychedelic research has so far focused largely on individual, i.e., intrasubjective drug effects, entry points into relational or 'intersubjective' aspects of shared altered states of consciousness can be found in studies on ritual and collective action. ...
... Experiences of psychedelic ceremonies have been consistently reported as positive, valuable, and in many cases associated with health improvements by both novice and regular participants (Barbosa et al., 2009;Loizaga-Velder and Verres, 2014). Furthermore, in line with the current results, previous observational studies on psychedelic ceremony participants have found increased wellbeing (Bouso et al., 2012;Uthaug et al., 2018b;Spriggs et al., 2020), creative divergent thinking (Kuypers et al., 2016;Mason et al., 2019), cognitive flexibility and mindfulness-related capacities (Soler et al., 2016;Soler et al., 2018;Murphy-Beiner and Soar, 2020;Zeifman et al., 2020), as well as reduced abuse of alcohol and other addictive drugs (Doering-Silveira et al., 2005). It is worth noting that absolute change (ΔWEMWBS 5.7 in the current sample vs. 2.8 reported in Haijen et al., 2018) and effect size (d 0.62 vs. d 0.4, reported in Roseman et al., 2019) for post-psychedelic wellbeing increase were approximately 2 and 1.5 times higher in the current study than in a structurally similar sample that considered naturalistic psychedelic use unrestricted to ceremony settings, suggesting that psychedelics used in guided, collective environments may on certain occasions provide an added advantage for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems. ...
... Large observed decreases in depression severity, despite a potential floor-effect, 2 constitute a meaningful parallel to recent controlled trials using ayahuasca or psilocybin in clinical settings, including the treatment of drug dependence (Bogenschutz et al., 2015;Johnson et al., 2014;Thomas et al., 2013), depression (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016;Palhano-Fontes et al., 2018), and end-of-life anxiety (Grob et al., 2011;Griffiths et al., 2016;Ross et al., 2016). Pooling data from multiple observational samples, including the one reported here, Spriggs et al. (2020) could establish first preliminary evidence of post-psychedelic improvements in a clinically relevant population yet unexplored in context of psychedelic treatments, i.e. those reporting an eating disorder. Acknowledging differences in population characteristics and needs between ceremony participants and patients enrolled in clinical trials, these findings thus strongly indicate collective phenomena as bearing underexploited potential for psychedelic therapy, warranting further research into the potential clinical utility of psychedelic retreats and psychedelic-assisted group therapy approaches. ...
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Background: Recent years have seen a resurgence of research on the potential of psychedelic substances to treat addictive and mood disorders. Historically and contemporarily, psychedelic studies have emphasized the importance of contextual elements ('set and setting') in modulating acute drug effects, and ultimately, influencing long-term outcomes. Nevertheless, current small-scale clinical and laboratory studies have tended to bypass a ubiquitous contextual feature of naturalistic psychedelic use: its social dimension. This study introduces and psychometrically validates an adapted Communitas Scale, assessing acute relational experiences of perceived togetherness and shared humanity, in order to investigate psychosocial mechanisms pertinent to psychedelic ceremonies and retreats. Methods: In this observational, web-based survey study, participants ( N = 886) were measured across five successive time-points: 2 weeks before, hours before, and the day after a psychedelic ceremony; as well as the day after, and 4 weeks after leaving the ceremony location. Demographics, psychological traits and state variables were assessed pre-ceremony, in addition to changes in psychological wellbeing and social connectedness from before to after the retreat, as primary outcomes. Using correlational and multiple regression (path) analyses, predictive relationships between psychosocial 'set and setting' variables, communitas, and long-term outcomes were explored. Results: The adapted Communitas Scale demonstrated substantial internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = 0.92) and construct validity in comparison with validated measures of intra-subjective (visual, mystical, challenging experiences questionnaires) and inter-subjective (perceived emotional synchrony, identity fusion) experiences. Furthermore, communitas during ceremony was significantly correlated with increases in psychological wellbeing ( r = 0.22), social connectedness ( r = 0.25), and other salient mental health outcomes. Path analyses revealed that the effect of ceremony-communitas on long-term outcomes was fully mediated by communitas experienced in reference to the retreat overall, and that the extent of personal sharing or ‘self-disclosure’ contributed to this process. A positive relationship between participants and facilitators, and the perceived impact of emotional support, facilitated the emergence of communitas. Conclusion: Highlighting the importance of intersubjective experience, rapport, and emotional support for long-term outcomes of psychedelic use, this first quantitative examination of psychosocial factors in guided psychedelic settings is a significant step toward evidence-based benefit-maximization guidelines for collective psychedelic use.
... Fewer than half those diagnosed reach remission after specialist treatment and approximately 60% still meet diagnostic criteria 20 years after diagnosis [5]. There is a desperate need for new treatment avenues to be explored and it has been argued that greater efficacy may come from treatments that target the deeper disturbance of identity, connection to the body, and self-worth that characterise the condition [9,10,24]. ...
... treatment of AN is also provided by naturalistic studies, since such studies have demonstrated increases in self-acceptance, self-love and wellbeing, and decreases in depression symptomology following a self-initiated psychedelic experience in those suffering from an eating disorder [18,22,24]. The case study, presented by Jean Delay and his collaborators at the early stages of experimentation with psilocybin, also demonstrates the therapeutic potential of this compound which was ''indisputable'' according to the authors. ...
Article
Psilocybin is a psychotropic molecule that is a partial agonist of serotonin 2A receptors and is the main psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms. After the observation in 1953 in Mexico of ritual practices involving ingestion of such mushrooms, psilocybin was chemically characterized and synthesized in 1958 thanks to the collaboration between the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in France and the Sandoz pharmaceutical laboratories in Switzerland. The interest of this substance in psychiatric therapy was then evaluated for the first time at the Sainte-Anne Hospital in Paris, by the team of Professor Jean Delay. Among the patients who received this substance was a 35-year-old woman who was hospitalized for compulsive manifestations emblematic of anorexia nervosa and who experienced an immediate and lasting improvement. The original 1959 article (published in the Annales de la Société Médico-Psychologique) gives details of the patient's family background, biography and clinical examination. It then outlines the observations after two injections of psilocybin four days apart, in particular the autobiographical verbal statements that allowed the patient to understand the psychogenesis of her illness. After a long hiatus, psilocybin is once again the subject of medical research, with clinical trials now underway assessing psilocybin in the treatment of anorexia nervosa (NCT04505189; NCT04052568; NCT04661514) and this 1959 case study, is the first known demonstration of the safety and efficacy of psilocybin treatment of anorexia nervosa. This case study thus provides an interesting insight into possible therapeutic mechanisms and is of great interest to the field moving forward.
... The possibility raised by this case report is bolstered by emerging preliminary evidence that psychedelic use may have therapeutic effects in eating disorders, which share overlapping Psychedelic therapy for BDD 9 symptoms with BDD. Spriggs et al. (2021) conducted a survey study of psychedelic use in naturalistic environments by people with eating disorders. They reported significant reductions in depression and increases in well-being after a single psychedelic experience. ...
Article
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In this opinion piece we propose the investigation of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a psychiatric disorder characterised by appearance-based preoccupations and accompanying compulsions. While safe and effective treatments for BDD exist, non-response and relapse rates remain high. Therefore, there is a need to investigate promising new treatment options for this highly debilitating condition. Preliminary evidence suggests safety, feasibility, and potential efficacy of psychedelic treatments in disorders that share similar psychopathological mechanisms with BDD. Drawing on this evidence, as well as on relevant qualitative reports and theoretical proposals, we argue that it would be worthwhile to conduct a phase 2a study aimed at assessing the safety and feasibility of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in BDD. We also offer some suggestions for how future research ought to proceed.
... Indeed, music increases the visual imagery that is involved in autobiographical memory [150]. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that emotional breakthrough (EB) also contributes to the increased well-being after psilocybin intake [158,159]. EB overlaps with the psychoanalytic notion of catharsis and is influenced by the context. Greater EB during the psychedelic experience has been linked to greater well-being afterwards [159]. ...
Article
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The available interventions for people who are at risk of suicide have limited efficacy. Recently, research on new mental health treatments has started to consider psychedelic compounds, particularly psilocybin, a molecule with a few thousand years of history of use in human societies. The possible effects of psilocybin on suicidal ideation and behaviors have not been specifically studied yet; however, the current knowledge on the suicidal process and the available data on es/ketamine suggest that psylocibin could be used to modulate the thoughts and behavioral patterns in individu- als who are at risk of suicidal behaviors. Here, we summarize the available evidence on the possible mechanisms underlying psilocybin positive effects on suicide risk. Major pathways related to suicidal behaviors that might be modulated by psylocibin include serotonin receptors. Specifically, psylocibin directly stimulates the serotonin 2A receptor (5HT2A), targeting the inflammatory and oxidative stress pathways and leading to a rapid increase in brain plasticity and inflammation suppression and increases in cognitive flexibility, spirituality, and empathy. We also present preliminary epidemio- logical data and provide a rationale for studying psilocybin in individuals with suicidal ideation or who are at risk of suicidal behaviors. This review presents a framework to understand the basis for psilocybin use in individuals who are at risk of suicidal behaviors and calls for clinical studies.
... Psychedelic therapy has shown promise for a range of different mental health conditions, including: (1) depression (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016;Davis et al., 2020), (2) end-of-life anxiety (Griffiths et al., 2016), (3) addiction (Johnson et al., 2014) and (4) obsessive compulsive disorder (Moreno et al., 2006). Indirect evidence also supports its potential for treating eating disorders (Renelli et al., 2020;Spriggs et al., 2020) and chronic pain (Whelan and Johnson, 2018). See Andersen et al. (2020) for a review. ...
Article
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Favourable regulatory assessments, liberal policy changes, new research centres and substantial commercial investment signal that psychedelic therapy is making a major comeback. Positive findings from modern trials are catalysing developments, but it is questionable whether current confirmatory trials are sufficient for advancing our understanding of safety and best practice. Here we suggest supplementing traditional confirmatory trials with pragmatic trials, real-world data initiatives and digital health solutions to better support the discovery of optimal and personalised treatment protocols and parameters. These recommendations are intended to help support the development of safe, effective and cost-efficient psychedelic therapy, which, given its history, is vulnerable to excesses of hype and regulation.
... Preliminary clinical evidence suggests that the synergistic combination of psychedelic compounds with psychological support may improve outcomes in major depressive disorder (MDD) [3,4], treatment-resistant depression (TRD) [5,6], and addiction disorders [7][8][9][10]. Exploratory studies suggest potential benefits of psilocybin therapy in OCD [11], eating disorders [12], and migraine suppression [13], with ongoing clinical trials of psychedelic therapy in MDD, TRD, bipolar disorder type II depression, anxiety, alcohol use disorder, smoking cessation, cocaine addiction, anorexia nervosa, depression with mild cognitive impairment, OCD, and various types of headaches [14]. Results from ongoing wellpowered double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) will determine whether psychedelic therapy translates into clinical benefits for non-psychotic disorders in clinical psychiatry. ...
Article
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Introduction Despite the rapid advance of psychedelic science and possible translation of psychedelic therapy into the psychiatric clinic, very little is known about mental health service user attitudes. Objectives To explore mental health service user attitudes to psychedelics and psilocybin therapy. Methods A questionnaire capturing demographics, diagnoses, previous psychedelic and other drug use, and attitudes to psychedelics and psilocybin therapy was distributed to mental health service users. Results Ninety-nine participants completed the survey (52% female, mean age 42 years). The majority (72%) supported further research, with 59% supporting psilocybin as a medical treatment. A total of 27% previously used recreational psilocybin, with a male preponderance (p = 0.01). Younger age groups, those with previous psychedelic experience, and those with non-religious beliefs were more likely to have favourable attitudes towards psilocybin. A total of 55% of the total sample would accept as a treatment if doctor recommended, whereas 20% would not. Fewer people with depression/anxiety had used recreational psychedelics (p = 0.03) but were more likely to support government funded studies (p = 0.02). A minority (5%) of people with conditions (psychosis and bipolar disorder) that could be exacerbated by psilocybin thought it would be useful for them. One fifth of the total sample viewed psychedelics as addictive and unsafe even under medical supervision. Concerns included fear of adverse effects, lack of knowledge, insufficient research, illegality, and relapse if medications were discontinued. Conclusions The majority supported further research into psilocybin therapy. Younger people, those with previous recreational psychedelic experience, and those with non-religious beliefs were more likely to have favourable attitudes towards psilocybin therapy.
... In the present study, neither the quality of the acute experience nor psychedelic advocacy or psychedelic-induced long-term psychological changes predicted study attrition. Given the accumulating number of studies reporting improvements in mental health outcomes after naturalistic psychedelic use [9,[67][68][69][70][71][72][73], as well as impactful clinical trials involving psychedelic interventions [3,[74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81], it can be considered reassuring that none of the established mediators of positive outcomes, nor outcomes themselves, seem to bias study attrition in longitudinal studies on psychedelics. Although it is, by definition, impossible to address with certainty how the noncompleters in this study sample faired in terms of their postpsychedelic mental health, the absence of a relationship between attrition and biased perspectives toward psychedelics at baseline, the nature of the participants' acute experiences, or the reported beneficial effects (ie, psychological changes), partly ameliorates previous concerns regarding attrition bias in observational studies on psychedelics [9,10,39]. ...
Article
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Background The resurgence of research and public interest in the positive psychological effects of psychedelics, together with advancements in digital data collection techniques, have brought forth a new type of research design, which involves prospectively gathering large-scale naturalistic data from psychedelic users; that is, before and after the use of a psychedelic compound. A methodological limitation of such studies is their high attrition rate, particularly owing to participants who stop responding after initial study enrollment. Importantly, study dropout can introduce systematic biases that may affect the interpretability of results. Objective Based on a previously collected sample (baseline n=654), here we investigated potential determinants of study attrition in web-based prospective studies on psychedelic use. Methods Logistic regression models were used to examine demographic, psychological trait and state, and psychedelic-specific predictors of dropout. Predictors were assessed 1 week before, 1 day after, and 2 weeks after psychedelic use, with attrition being defined as noncompletion of the key endpoint 4 weeks post experience. Results Predictors of attrition were found among demographic variables including age (β=0.024; P=.007) and educational levels, as well as personality traits, specifically conscientiousness (β=–0.079; P=.02) and extraversion (β=0.082; P=.01). Contrary to prior hypotheses, neither baseline attitudes toward psychedelics nor the intensity of acute challenging experiences were predictive of dropout. Conclusions The baseline predictors of attrition identified here are consistent with those reported in longitudinal studies in other scientific disciplines, suggesting their transdisciplinary relevance. Moreover, the lack of an association between attrition and psychedelic advocacy or negative drug experiences in our sample contextualizes concerns about problematic biases in these and related data.
... Many individuals who choose to engage in psychedelic experiences plan this process. One cohort study of 28 patients self-reporting a lifetime diagnosis of an eating disorder capitalized on this phenomenon by taking prospective measures of wellbeing and depression (but not eating disorder symptomatology) 2 weeks before the experience and 2 weeks after [31]. Results showed profound reductions in depressive scores and increased well-being by using psychedelic drugs which included ayahuasca, DMT, psilocybin, LSD and the San Pedro cactus. ...
Article
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Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, yet the treatment options show limited efficacy, warranting the need for novel approaches. This study aimed to investigate the perspectives of people with eating disorders on the use of complementary therapies and psychedelic research and treatment. Two hundred participants with eating disorders took part in this web survey study. The majority of participants (70%) had used a complementary treatment to manage their eating disorder. Participants believed that psychedelic research was worthwhile in the context of a moderate level of concern. The most popular solutions to meet these concerns included providing education around psychedelics and their effects and use in psychiatry and experiencing endorsement from professionals in the area. Moreover, participant responses emphasized the need for a safe, monitored environment and the patient-therapist rapport in the context of psychedelic treatment. The findings are explored concerning future trials of psychedelics as a treatment for eating disorders.
... Within the right context, this is thought to promote rapid and deep learning and open a window of opportunity for meaningful psychological transformation (34)(35)(36)(37). There is also now an increasing understanding that it is the quality rather than the intensity of the acute experience that is predictive of long-term therapeutic outcomes (21,31,33,(38)(39)(40) with growing recognition for the importance of acute emotional-breakthroughs (41,42). ...
Article
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Background: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious and life-threatening psychiatric condition. With a paucity of approved treatments, there is a desperate need for novel treatment avenues to be explored. Here, we present (1) an overview of the ways through which Public Patient Involvement (PPI) has informed a trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for AN and (2) a protocol for a pilot study of psilocybin-assisted therapy in AN currently underway at Imperial College London. The study aims to assess the feasibility, brain mechanisms and preliminary outcomes of treating anorexia nervosa with psilocybin. Methods: (1) PPI: Across two online focus groups, eleven individuals with lived experience of AN were presented with an overview of the protocol. Their feedback not only identified solutions to possible barriers for future participants, but also helped the research team to better understand the concept of “ recovery” from the perspective of those with lived experience. (2) Protocol: Twenty female participants [21–65 years old, body mass index (BMI) 15 kg/m ² or above] will receive three oral doses of psilocybin (up to 25 mg) over a 6-week period delivered in a therapeutic environment and enveloped by psychological preparation and integration. We will work with participant support networks (care teams and an identified support person) throughout and there will be an extended remote follow-up period of 12 months. Our two-fold primary outcomes are (1) psychopathology (Eating Disorder Examination) across the 6-month follow-up and (2) readiness and motivation to engage in recovery (Readiness and Motivation Questionnaire) across the 6-week trial period. Neurophysiological outcome measures will be: (1) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain changes from baseline to 6-week endpoint and (2) post-acute changes in electroencephalography (EEG) activity, including an electrophysiological marker of neuronal plasticity. Discussion: The results of this pilot study will not only shed light on the acceptability, brain mechanisms, and impression of the potential efficacy of psilocybin as an adjunct treatment for AN but will be essential in shaping a subsequent Randomised Control Trial (RCT) that would test this treatment against a suitable control condition. Clinical Trial Registration: identifier: NCT04505189.
... While results from ongoing well-powered double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) will determine whether psychedelic therapy translates into clinical benefits for nonpsychotic disorders in clinical psychiatry (11,12), it has been proposed that psychedelic therapy may have broad therapeutic benefits via the attenuation of overly-restricted and maladaptive patterns of cognition and behavior (13,14). Exploratory studies suggest potential benefits of psilocybin therapy in OCD (15), eating disorders (16) and migraine suppression (17), with ongoing RCTs of psilocybin therapy in MDD, bipolar disorder type II depression, alcohol use disorder, smoking cessation, cocaine addiction, opioid addiction, anorexia nervosa, depression in Mild Cognitive Impairment, OCD and various types of headaches (18). ...
Article
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Accumulating clinical evidence shows that psychedelic therapy, by synergistically combining psychopharmacology and psychological support, offers a promising transdiagnostic treatment strategy for a range of disorders with restricted and/or maladaptive habitual patterns of emotion, cognition and behavior, notably, depression (MDD), treatment resistant depression (TRD) and addiction disorders, but perhaps also anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. Despite the emergent transdiagnostic evidence, the specific clinical dimensions that psychedelics are efficacious for, and associated underlying neurobiological pathways, remain to be well-characterized. To this end, this review focuses on pre-clinical and clinical evidence of the acute and sustained therapeutic potential of psychedelic therapy in the context of a transdiagnostic dimensional systems framework. Focusing on the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) as a template, we will describe the multimodal mechanisms underlying the transdiagnostic therapeutic effects of psychedelic therapy, traversing molecular, cellular and network levels. These levels will be mapped to the RDoC constructs of negative and positive valence systems, arousal regulation, social processing, cognitive and sensorimotor systems. In summarizing this literature and framing it transdiagnostically, we hope we can assist the field in moving toward a mechanistic understanding of how psychedelics work for patients and eventually toward a precise-personalized psychedelic therapy paradigm.
... Within the right context, this is thought to promote rapid and deep learning and open a window of opportunity for meaningful psychological transformation (34)(35)(36)(37). There is also now an increasing understanding that it is the quality rather than the intensity of the acute experience that is predictive of long-term therapeutic outcomes (21,31,33,(38)(39)(40) with growing recognition for the importance of acute emotional-breakthroughs (41,42). ...
... Thematic analysis revealed that ayahuasca produced rapid reductions in ED cognitions and behavior, allowed for painful memories and associated emotions to be processed, and catalyzed transcendent aspects of healing. Finally, Springs et al. investigated acute psychological effects of psychedelics in lifetime ED sufferers (N = 28), reporting significant improvements in depression and well-being [133]. Taken together, and with the relevant literature on ketamine, these findings underscore the desire to develop and test psychedelic interventions for EDs, as well as their potential therapeutic value. ...
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Eating disorders (EDs) are serious, life-threatening psychiatric conditions associated with physical and psychosocial impairments, as well as high morbidity and mortality. Given the chronic refractory nature of EDs and the paucity of evidence-based treatments, there is a pressing need to identify novel approaches for this population. The noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAr) antagonist, ketamine, has recently been approved for treatment-resistant depression, which exhibits rapid and robust antidepressant effects, particularly among clinical non-responders. It is now being investigated for several new indications, including obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic , and substance use disorder; and shows transdiagnostic potential for EDs. As such, the aim of this review is to examine contemporary findings on the treatment of EDs with ketamine, whether used as a primary, adjunctive, or combination pharmacotherapy. Avenues for future research are also discussed. Overall, results are encouraging and point to therapeutic value, yet are limited to case series and reports principally on anorexia nervosa. Further empirical work is thus needed to explore and establish ketamine efficacy for EDs, and to inform targeted treatment strategies.
... Whether these positive effects of MDMA-AT would translate to therapeutic effects in individuals with full syndromal EDs is unknown, but these results support testing this hypothesis in controlled trials of ED patients with and without PTSD. Our results also add to previous reports that indicate the potential therapeutic benefits of other psychedelic agents in individuals with EDs (Renelli et al., 2020;Spriggs et al., 2020). ...
Article
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Introduction Eating disorders (EDs) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are highly comorbid, yet there are no proven integrative treatment modalities for ED-PTSD. In clinical trials, MDMA-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT) has shown marked success in the treatment of PTSD and may be promising for ED-PTSD. Methods Ninety individuals with severe PTSD received treatment in a double-blind, placebo-controlled pivotal trial of MDMA-AT. In addition to the primary (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale) and secondary (Sheehan Disability Scale) outcome measures, the Eating Attitudes Test 26 (EAT-26) was administered for pre-specified exploratory purposes at baseline and at study termination. Results The study sample consisted of 58 females (placebo = 31, MDMA = 27) and 31 males (placebo = 12, MDMA = 19) (n = 89). Seven participants discontinued prior to study termination. At baseline, 13 (15%) of the 89 individuals with PTSD had total EAT-26 scores in the clinical range (≥20), and 28 (31.5%) had total EAT-26 scores in the high-risk range (≥11) despite the absence of active purging or low weight. In completers (n = 82), there was a significant reduction in total EAT-26 scores in the total group of PTSD participants following MDMA-AT versus placebo (p = .03). There were also significant reductions in total EAT-26 scores in women with high EAT-26 scores ≥11 and ≥ 20 following MDMA-AT versus placebo (p = .0012 and p = .0478, respectively). Conclusions ED psychopathology is common in individuals with PTSD even in the absence of EDs with active purging and low weight. MDMA-AT significantly reduced ED symptoms compared to therapy with placebo among participants with severe PTSD. MDMA-AT for ED-PTSD appears promising and requires further study.
... Results further showed that participants with greater ED symptoms experienced greater improvement at follow-up. Finally, Springs et al. investigated acute psychological effects of psychedelics in lifetime ED sufferers (N = 28), reporting clinically meaningful improvements in depression and well-being [153]. Taken together, and with the relevant literature on ketamine, these findings underscore the desire to develop and test psychedelic interventions for EDs, as well as their potential therapeutic value. ...
Article
Full-text available
Eating disorders (EDs) are serious, life-threatening psychiatric conditions associated with physical and psychosocial impairment, as well as high morbidity and mortality. Given the chronic refractory nature of EDs and the paucity of evidence-based treatments, there is a pressing need to identify novel approaches for this population. The noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAr) antagonist, ketamine, has recently been approved for treatment-resistant depression, exerting rapid and robust antidepressant effects. It is now being investigated for several new indications, including obsessive–compulsive, post-traumatic, and substance use disorder, and shows transdiagnostic potential for EDs, particularly among clinical nonresponders. Hence, the aim of this review is to examine contemporary findings on the treatment of EDs with ketamine, whether used as a primary, adjunctive, or combination psychopharmacotherapy. Avenues for future research are also discussed. Overall, results are encouraging and point to therapeutic value; however, are limited to case series and reports on anorexia nervosa. Further empirical research is thus needed to explore ketamine efficacy across ED subgroups, establish safety profiles and optimize dosing, and develop theory-driven, targeted treatment strategies at the individual patient level.
... One of the proposed mechanisms of psychedelics is that they weaken ego boundaries and allow access to the 'unconscious mind' (Frederking, 1955;Grof, 2008), and in line with this, many psychedelic therapists have written about the importance of emotional breakthrough as a therapeutic mechanism (see Roseman et al., 2019 for a comprehensive background). Results of survey-based data of individuals planning to use a psychedelic suggested that higher levels of emotional breakthrough are associated with improved mental health in the weeks following psychedelic use (Roseman et al., 2019;Spriggs et al., 2021). Importantly, however, the role of emotional breakthrough in facilitating treatment outcomes has not yet been evaluated within a clinical sample or in the context of a controlled psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trial. ...
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Background: Across psychotherapeutic frameworks, the strength of the therapeutic alliance has been found to correlate with treatment outcomes; however, its role has never been formally assessed in a trial of psychedelic-assisted therapy. We aimed to investigate the relationships between therapeutic alliance and rapport, the quality of the acute psychedelic experience and treatment outcomes. Methods: This 2-arm double-blind randomized controlled trial compared escitalopram with psychedelic-assisted therapy for moderate-severe depressive disorder ( N = 59). This analysis focused on the psilocybin condition ( n = 30), who received two oral doses of 25 mg psilocybin, 3-weeks apart, with psychological preparation, in-session support, and integration therapy. A new psychedelic therapy model, called “Accept-Connect-Embody” (ACE), was developed in this trial. The primary outcome was depression severity 6 weeks post treatment (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, QIDS-SR-16). Path analyses tested the hypothesis that therapeutic alliance (Scale To Assess the Therapeutic Relationship Patient Version, STAR-P) would predict depression outcomes via its influence on the acute psychedelic experience, specifically emotional-breakthrough (EBI) and mystical-type experiences (MEQ). The same analysis was performed on the escitalopram arm to test specificity. Results: The strength of therapeutic alliance predicted pre-session rapport, greater emotional-breakthrough and mystical-type experience (maximum EBI and MEQ scores across the two psilocybin sessions) and final QIDS scores ( β = −0.22, R ² = 0.42 for EBI Max ; β = −0.19, R ² = 0.32 for MEQ Max ). Exploratory path models revealed that final depression outcomes were more strongly affected by emotional breakthrough during the first, and mystical experience during the second session. Emotional breakthrough, but not mystical experience, during the first session had a positive effect on therapeutic alliance ahead of the second session ( β = 0.79, p < 0.0001). Therapeutic alliance ahead of the second session had a direct impact on final depression scores, not mediated by the acute experience, with a weaker alliance ahead of the second psilocybin session predicting higher absolute depression scores at endpoint ( β = −0.49, p < 0.001) Discussion: Future research could consider therapist training and characteristics; specific participant factors, e.g., attachment style or interpersonal trauma, which may underlie the quality of the therapeutic relationship, the psychedelic experience and clinical outcomes; and consider how therapeutic approaches might adapt in cases of weaker therapeutic alliance. Clinical Trial Registration: This trial is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov , identifier (NCT03429075).
... Naturalistic studies have suggested that greater experiences of an emotional breakthrough whilst under the influence of a psychedelic positively predict improvements in psychological wellbeing in non-clinical populations [53]. One study conducted with individuals reporting a lifetime diagnosis of an eating disorder provided some evidence that greater experiences of an emotional breakthrough related to greater reductions in depression symptomology following a psychedelic experience [54]. This finding was only at trend level and was not statistically significant. ...
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Background There is currently renewed interest in the use of psychedelic therapy in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including depression. The proposed systematic review will aim to identify, evaluate and summarise the psychological processes of change underlying psychedelic therapy for depression in the current literature and consider the implications these processes may have on the psychotherapy component of treatment. Methods Scopus, PsycINFO, PubMed and Web of Science databases will be searched using relevant terms. Studies will be included if they discuss the use of a classic psychedelic to treat depression symptomology in an adult population and report or propose psychological processes responsible for depression symptom change. Two authors will independently screen articles, complete quality assessment tools and conduct data extraction. Empirical and non-empirical research will be extracted and synthesised separately. A narrative synthesis approach will be used to report psychological processes identified in the literature. Discussion This systematic review will be the first to collate available evidence on the psychological processes associated with psychedelic therapy for depression. The preliminary nature of this research field is expected to result in the review having several limitations, namely heterogeneity between studies and the inclusion of limited empirical research. We intend for this review to present the current state of the literature, identify gaps and generate candidate variables that warrant further investigation. Systematic review PROSPERO CRD42020197202
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Psychedelic drugs are increasingly being incorporated into therapeutic contexts for the purposes of promoting mental health. Yet, they can also induce adverse reactions in some individuals, and it is difficult to predict pre-treatment who is likely to experience positive or adverse acute effects. Although consideration of setting, dosage, and excluding individuals with psychotic predispositions has thus far led to a high degree of safety, it is imperative researchers develop a more nuanced understanding of how to predict individual reactions. To this end, the current systematic review coalesced the results of 14 studies that included baseline states or traits predictive of the acute effects of psychedelics. Individuals high in the traits of absorption, openness, and acceptance as well as a state of surrender were more likely to have positive and mystical-type experiences, whereas those low in openness and surrender, or in preoccupied, apprehensive, or confused psychological states were more likely to experience acute adverse reactions. Participant sex was not a robust predictor of drug effects, but 5-HT2AR binding potential, executive network node diversity, and rACC volume may be potential baseline biomarkers related to acute reactions. Lastly, increased age and experience with psychedelics were individual differences related to generally less intense effects, indicating users may become slightly less sensitive to the effects of the drugs after repeated usage. Although future well-powered, placebo-controlled trials directly comparing the relative importance of these predictors is needed, this review synthesizes the field's current understanding of how to predict acute reactions to psychedelic drugs.
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Eating disorders are serious psychiatric illnesses with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Effective treatments have traditionally included behaviorally focused therapies as well as several medication strategies. Recent years have seen promising developments in these treatments, including additional support for family-based approaches for children and adolescents, new evidence for “third-wave” behavioral therapies, and new support for the use of lisdexamfetamine for binge eating disorder and olanzapine for anorexia nervosa. Case study and pilot data are beginning to show limited support for neuromodulatory interventions targeting brain regions thought to be involved in eating disorders. This review summarizes treatment developments over the last several years and points towards future directions for the field.
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Background: Psychedelic therapy is gaining recognition and the nature of the psychedelic experience itself has been found to mediate subsequent long-term psychological changes. Much emphasis has been placed on the occurrence of mystical-type experiences in determining long-term responses to psychedelics yet here we demonstrate the importance of another component, namely: emotional breakthrough. Methods: Three hundred and seventy-nine participants completed online surveys before and after a planned psychedelic experience. Items pertaining to emotional breakthrough were completed one day after the psychedelic experience, as were items comprising the already validated Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Challenging Experience Questionnaire. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores were used to predict changes in well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) in a subsample of 75 participants with low well-being baseline scores (⩽45). Results: Factor analyses revealed six emotional breakthrough items with high internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.932) and supported our prior hypothesis that emotional breakthrough is a distinct component of the psychedelic experience. Emotional breakthrough scores behaved dose-dependently, and were higher if the psychedelic was taken with therapeutic planning and intent. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores combined, significantly predicted subsequent changes in well-being (r=0.45, p=0.0005, n=75), with each scale contributing significant predictive value. Emotional breakthrough and Mystical Experience Questionnaire scores predicted increases in well-being and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores predicted less increases. Conclusions: Here we validate a six-item ‘Emotional Breakthrough Inventory’. Emotional breakthrough is an important and distinct component of the acute psychedelic experience that appears to be a key mediator of subsequent longer-term psychological changes. Implications for psychedelic therapy are discussed.
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Background Outcome studies for eating disorders regularly measure pathology change or remission as the only outcome. Researchers, patients and recovered individuals highlight the importance of using additional criteria for measuring eating disorder recovery. There is no clear consensus on which additional criteria are most fundamental. Studies focusing on the perspectives of recovered patients show criteria which are closely related to dimensions of positive functioning as conceptualized in the complete mental health model. The aim of this study was to identify fundamental criteria for eating disorder recovery according to recovered individuals. Methods A systematic review and a qualitative meta-analytic approach were used. Eighteen studies with recovered individuals and meeting various quality criteria were included. The result sections of the included papers were searched for themes that were stated as criteria for recovery or ‘being recovered’. All themes were analyzed using a meta-summary technique. Themes were labeled into criteria for recovery and the frequency of the found criteria was examined. Results In addition to the remission of eating disorder pathology, dimensions of psychological well-being and self-adaptability/resilience were found to be fundamental criteria for eating disorder recovery. The most frequently mentioned criteria were: self-acceptance, positive relationships, personal growth, decrease in eating disorder behavior/cognitions, self-adaptability/resilience and autonomy. Conclusions People who have recovered rate psychological well-being as a central criterion for ED recovery in addition to the remission of eating disorder symptoms. Supplementary criteria, besides symptom remission, are needed to measure recovery. We recommend including measurements of psychological well-being and self-adaptability/resilience in future research, such as outcome studies and in routine outcome measurement.
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Eating disorders (EDs) are serious health conditions that are among the most difficult to treat. Innovative treatments are needed and modalities from across cultures must be considered. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant-based tea originally used by Amazonian indigenous groups. A growing body of research points to its promise in the healing of various mental health issues. This study explored the potential therapeutic value of ayahuasca in the context of EDs, including the perceived impact of the preparatory diet and the ayahuasca purge. Sixteen individuals previously diagnosed with an ED participated in a semi-structured interview relating to their experiences with ceremonial ayahuasca drinking. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Themes presented relate to the reduction or cessation of ED and mental health symptoms, shifts in body perception, and the importance of a ceremonial setting and after-care. For some, the preparatory diet resulted in familiar patterns of concern; however, none felt triggered by the purge in ayahuasca. Ceremonial ayahuasca drinking shows promise in the healing of EDs and warrants further research.
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Positive functioning is widely neglected in research on eating disorders (EDs). The aim of this exploratory study was to assess psychological well-being (PWB) in out-patients with ED and in controls. The authors assessed PWB in 245 out-patients with EDs [105 with bulimia nervosa (BN), 57 with anorexia nervosa (AN), and 83 with binge eating disorder (BED) who met DSM-IV-TR] and 60 controls. They tested whether PWB was associated with eating attitude test (EAT) scores and if such associations differed among ED groups while taking into account confounding variables. Significant differences between groups in all PWB scales were found. While individuals with BN reported significantly lower scores in all PWB dimensions than healthy controls, patients with BED scored significantly lower than controls in PWB autonomy, environmental mastery, and self-acceptance scales. Patients with AN showed similar scores to controls in all PWB dimensions, except for positive relationships and self-acceptance. In all ED groups, most PWB dimensions resulted significantly and negatively associated with EAT scales, except for AN where oral control was found to positively correlate with a high sense of purpose in life. All results were maintained even after adjusting for possible confounding variables. Patients with EDs reported an impairment in PWB. The paucity of PWB was not necessarily dependent on the presence of high levels of psychological distress and on the severity of the disorder. Such assessments may therefore yield a more comprehensive evaluation in this clinical population. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013;).
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Anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are related disorders of unknown etiology that most commonly begin during adolescence in women. AN and BN have unique and puzzling symptoms, such as restricted eating or binge-purge behaviors, body image distortions, denial of emaciation, and resistance to treatment. These are often chronic and relapsing disorders, and AN has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder. The lack of understanding of the pathogenesis of this illness has hindered the development of effective interventions, particularly for AN. Individuals with AN and BN are consistently characterized by perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness, and dysphoric mood. Individuals with AN tend to have high constraint, constriction of affect and emotional expressiveness, ahendonia and asceticism, whereas individuals with BN tend to be more impulsive and sensation seeking. Such symptoms often begin in childhood, before the onset of an eating disorder, and persist after recovery, suggesting they are traits that create a vulnerability for developing an ED. There is growing acknowledgement that neurobiological vulnerabilities make a substantial contribution to the pathogenesis of AN and BN. Considerable evidence suggests that altered brain serotonin (5-HT) function contributes to dysregulation of appetite, mood, and impulse control in AN and BN. Brain imaging studies, using 5-HT specific ligands, show that disturbances of 5-HT function occur when people are ill, and persist after recovery from AN and BN. It is possible that a trait-related disturbance of 5-HT neuronal modulation predates the onset of AN and contributes to premorbid symptoms of anxiety, obsessionality, and inhibition. This dysphoric temperament may involve an inherent dysregulation of emotional and reward pathways which also mediate the hedonic aspects of feeding, thus making these individuals vulnerable to disturbed appetitive behaviors. Restricting food intake may become powerfully reinforcing because it provides a temporary respite from dysphoric mood. Several factors may act on these vulnerabilities to cause AN to start in adolescence. First, puberty-related female gonadal steroids or age-related changes may exacerbate 5-HT dysregulation. Second, stress and/or cultural and societal pressures may contribute by increasing anxious and obsessional temperament. Individuals with AN may discover that reduced dietary intake, by reducing plasma tryptophan availability, is a means by which they can modulate brain 5-HT functional activity and anxious mood. People with AN enter a vicious cycle which accounts for the chronicity of this disorder because caloric restriction results in a brief respite from dysphoric mood. However, malnutrition and weight loss, in turn, produce alterations in many neuropeptides and monoamine function, perhaps in the service of conserving energy, but which also exaggerates dysphoric mood. In summary, this article reviews findings in brain chemistry and neuroimaging that shed new light on understanding the psychopathology of these difficult and frustrating disorders.
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After a legally mandated, decades-long global arrest of research on psychedelic drugs, investigation of psychedelics in the context of psychiatric disorders is yielding exciting results. Outcomes of neuroscience and clinical research into 5-Hydroxytryptamine 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonists, such as psilocybin, show promise for addressing a range of serious disorders, including depression and addiction.
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Compare general and disease-specific health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among female patients with an eating disorder (ED). Female patients (n = 221; 95.3% Caucasian; 94.0% never married) completed the Medical Outcome Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and Eating Disorders Quality of Life (EDQoL) as part of a study of treatment outcomes. Multivariate regression models were used to compare HRQoL differences across initial ED diagnosis (85 AN-R, 19 AN-B/P, 27 BN, 90 EDNOS) and ED diagnostic classification at time of outcome assessment (140 no ED, 38 subthreshold ED, 43 full threshold ED). There were no significant differences across ED diagnosis at initial assessment on either of the SF-36 Component Summary scores. However, patients with AN-B/P scored poorer on the work/school EDQoL subscales than other ED diagnoses, and on the psychological EDQoL subscale compared to AN-R and EDNOS. At outcome assessment, comparisons across full threshold, subthreshold and no ED classification indicated that those with no ED reported better HRQoL than those with full threshold ED on the SF-36 Mental Components Summary and three of four EDQoL subscales. Furthermore, those with no ED reported better psychological HRQoL than those with subthreshold ED. Disease-specific HRQOL measures are important to use when comparing HRQoL in ED patients across treatment and outcome, and may have the sensitivity to detect meaningful differences by diagnosis more so than generic instruments. EDQoL scores from patients remitted from symptoms approach but do not reach scores for unaffected college females; thus, treatment should continue until quality of life is restored. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013;).
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A process account of eating disorders (EDs) (Park et al., in press-a) proposes that preoccupation with ruminative themes of eating, weight and shape may be important in ED maintenance. No self-report measure exists to capture disorder-specific rumination in EDs. 275 healthy participants rated rumination items and completed self-report measures of ED symptoms, depression and anxiety. Principal component analysis revealed two factors, reflection and brooding. The final nine-item Ruminative Response Scale for Eating Disorders (RRS-ED) demonstrated good convergent and discriminant validity and test-retest reliability. The psychometric properties were replicated in an anorexia nervosa sample. The findings support the notion that rumination in EDs is distinct from rumination in depression and is not adequately captured by existing measures.
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The 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS), a new measure of depressive symptom severity derived from the 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS), is available in both self-report (QIDS-SR(16)) and clinician-rated (QIDS-C(16)) formats. This report evaluates and compares the psychometric properties of the QIDS-SR(16) in relation to the IDS-SR(30) and the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D(24)) in 596 adult outpatients treated for chronic nonpsychotic, major depressive disorder. Internal consistency was high for the QIDS-SR(16) (Cronbach's alpha =.86), the IDS-SR(30) (Cronbach's alpha =.92), and the HAM-D(24) (Cronbach's alpha =.88). QIDS-SR(16) total scores were highly correlated with IDS-SR(30) (.96) and HAM-D(24) (.86) total scores. Item-total correlations revealed that several similar items were highly correlated with both QIDS-SR(16) and IDS-SR(30) total scores. Roughly 1.3 times the QIDS-SR(16) total score is predictive of the HAM-D(17) (17-item version of the HAM-D) total score. The QIDS-SR(16) was as sensitive to symptom change as the IDS-SR(30) and HAM-D(24), indicating high concurrent validity for all three scales. The QIDS-SR(16) has highly acceptable psychometric properties, which supports the usefulness of this brief rating of depressive symptom severity in both clinical and research settings.
Post-Psychedelic Reductions in Experiential Avoidance Are Associated With Decreases in Depression Severity and Suicidal Ideation
  • R Zeifman
  • A C Zagner
  • R Watts
  • H Kettner
  • L J Mertens
  • R L Carhart-Harris
Zeifman R, Zagner AC, Watts R, Kettner H, Mertens LJ, Carhart-Harris RL (2020) Post-Psychedelic Reductions in Experiential Avoidance Are Associated With Decreases in Depression Severity and Suicidal Ideation. Frontiers Psychiatry 11
Neurobiology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa