When it comes to treating different conditions, thanks to a rise in alternative options such as CBD or cannabis, there is a growing interest in the psychedelic industry. This has led many people to wonder what else is out there, especially when it comes to more treatment-resistant conditions.
This also includes myself.
I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)at the age of ten and then immediately placed on medication. Over five years, I not only exhausted my mother’s patience but an entire list of health service-approved medications. It has made me wonder, where do I go from here?
It seems I’m not alone. A steady flow of other ADHD folks are now turning to psychedelics for help. LSD is thought to be beneficial for conditions such as Substance Use Disorder (SUD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and now, ADHD too.
While there are limited studies on the subject, it may have something to do with ADHD and our levels of dopamine. LSD in particular has been cited as a substance that could work based on findings that show it may increase dopamine in rat studies. Dopamine is a hormone that helps with functions such as memory, motivation or pleasurable reward. It is thought that ADHD people may have lower levels of dopamine in the brain which leads us to seek out ways to top it up which is where LSD may potentially help.
There are very few studies as research is still in its infancy. One study by psychedelic medicine biotech company MindMed intends to enrol 52 patients to take either 20µg of LSD every dose schedule (twice a week on a 3/4-day schedule) or a placebo for 6 weeks to see if there is a change in symptoms.
“We are pleased to activate our first site and excited to initiate patient enrolment of our ADHD proof-of-concept trial,” said Robert Barrow, Chief Executive Officer and Director of MindMed in a statement. “The study builds on the growing evidence demonstrating LSD has the potential to improve mood and selective cognitive processes. Further, low doses of LSD have been shown to be safe, well-tolerated and have minimal effects on physiological parameters.”
Mind over microdose
Rachel Jones is from Oregon in the US where psychedelics have been recently legalised for therapeutic use. She was diagnosed with ADHD at 20 years old and given Adderall and Yyanse. Rachel also has depression and felt that microdosing LSD along with her Adderall has the right combination of mood elevation and focus for her.
It is estimated that ADHD people are 2.7 times more likely to have depression than neurotypical people. This may have something to do with low levels of dopamine in both conditions.
“I got the idea to try psychedelics for mood elevation so I started to do small amounts. That, combined with the Adderall, made me able to focus and feel great. The idea was less to treat my ADHD but more to treat my depression,” she said.
“If I am sitting at my desk crying then it can make me feel tired. Adderall tends to keep people up but I feel I can sleep on it and I’m jittering while lying down. So by taking tiny doses, I can focus but it feels nicer in small amounts.”
“I got the idea to try psychedelics for mood elevation so I started to do small amounts. That, combined with the Adderall, made me able to focus and feel great.”
When it comes to buying psychedelics, Rachel would prefer to be able to buy them in the same way cannabis dispensaries operate in certain US states. This would allow people to make educated purchases from professionals rather than the illegal market.
In the UK, psychedelic treatment is an emerging field in comparison to the US as clinics are only just starting to open. However, there is also a growing movement for psychedelic use among neurodiverse people in England.
Focusing on LSD
Amelia Gorman lives in Nottingham and was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 23. She tried Vyvanse with no luck before having an experience with LSD, realising it had helped her to remain calm and quiet.
“It helped me to sit down and think about things. I had an experience at a festival where I did a low dose with two girls. They were having an embodied experience where they wanted to go touch everything but I wanted to sit down and focus on my life,” she said.
“ADHD can be frustrating because you surface-level interact with things which I don’t want to be doing. I just want to sit and take time which is not what my brain wants to do. The other thing I felt on that particular trip was very at peace with the world. It was a very wonderful experience because it connects you to everything.”
Amelia would like to see more research done in this area in particular around pattern recognition. Some studies show that ADHD people may experience hypersensitivity, coordination and difficulties with processing auditory or tactile things.
“I’d love to see more research as it’s interesting the way LSD interacts with ADHD brains or autism too which is often very comorbid. It is especially interesting when it comes to pattern recognition which is very much an experience on LSD,” she said.
When it comes to change in the system, we won’t see widespread acceptance of psychedelics or a better understanding until we have more research or trials. This will help us better understand the role it could play in our neurodivergent brains.
Rayyan Zafar, PhD fellow at the Centre for Psychedelic Research and Neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College & Drug Science said: “We need to understand the role of dopamine release in response to psychedelics which has not been studied, we know it does not release lots of dopamine but ADHD is treated through increasing dopamine to a sufficient but not excessive level.”
“It is likely there is significant inter-individual variability between optimising doses for ADHD patients. Trying to assess the neurobiological effects and optimising dosing will be critical to assess the efficacy and safety of psychedelics in this population.”
We need change and this won’t happen without more trials or studies being conducted. However, as Rayyan highlights, this will take time and money.
“Not until there are trials we won’t [see change] as this is the current framework and it seems this is an area that there is much exploration in. We will need to see confirmatory phase III double-blind RCTs which take years and lots of money. Maybe one day these could be prescribed off-label however for now it remains that regulators require evidence from clinical trials.”