In a study published in the journal Science, a team of researchers from China have revealed findings that show a new analogue made from various psychedelic drugs displays antidepressant-like activity in mice without causing hallucinations.
Psychedelic drugs work by interacting with the body’s serotonin 2A receptor, (5=HT2aR). Their ability to help treat mood disorders and other mental health problems has been known for some time, with research on these drugs starting as far back as 1938 when Albert Hoffman first synthesised LSD.
However, their potential for use in treatment is slightly hampered by their hallucinogenic properties. Patients who wish to treat mood disorders may have no desire to experience the hallucinogenic effects of these drugs, and care providers have the problem of making sure their patients are safe while undergoing treatment.
Speaking to Daily Beast biochemist Sheng Wang from the Chinese Academy of Science, and lead author of the study said, “Psychedelics have previously shown potential therapeutic effects in past clinical trials. The hallucination effects definitely restrict their potential use. But now, non-hallucinogenic drugs may solve this problem.”
The new analogue designed by the researchers is a 5-HT2AR structure which has been bound to traditional psychedelics drugs psilocin and LSD, as well as the endogenous neurotransmitter serotonin and the non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue lisuride. It was when these compounds were presented together in the mice models that the non-hallucinogenic and antidepressant qualities were displayed.
The author of the study writes, “The 5-HT2AR complex structures presented herein and the resulting insights provide a solid foundation for the structure-based design of safe and effective non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogues with therapeutic effects.”
Psychedelic substances are currently going through a period of renewed interest with scientific communities and the general public alike. Microdosing is being explored for its abilities to provide mental clarity and to generate inspiration, there is ongoing research into potential treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, treatment-resistant depression and PTSD, and of course for people using them to access their spiritual side.