Analgesic potential of macrodoses and microdoses of classical psychedelics in chronic pain sufferers: a population survey

Valerie Bonnelle, Will J Smith, Natasha L Mason, Mauro Cavarra, Pamela Kryskow, Kim PC Kuypers, Johannes G Ramaekers, Amanda Feilding

Although several studies and reports have shown the potential analgesic use of serotonergic psychedelics in cancer pain, phantom limb pain and cluster headache, evidence supporting their use for chronic pain is still limited. The past years have seen a considerable renewal of interest toward the therapeutic use of these compounds for mood disorders, resulting in a marked increase in the number of people turning to psychedelics in an attempt to self-medicate a health condition or improve their wellbeing. In western countries particularly, this population of users overlaps substantially with chronic pain sufferers, representing a unique opportunity to evaluate the effects these compounds have on pain and wellbeing. Here, we report results from an online survey conducted between August 2020 and July 2021 in a population of 250 chronic pain sufferers who had experience with psychedelics, either in microdoses (small sub-hallucinogenic doses), macrodoses (hallucinogenic doses), or both. Macrodoses, while less often used for analgesic purposes than microdoses, were reported to induce a higher level of pain relief than both microdoses and conventional pain medications (including opioids and cannabis). Although the effects were weaker and potentially more prone to expectation bias than with macrodoses, our results also suggested some benefits of psychedelics in microdoses for pain management. The reported analgesic effect appeared unrelated to mood improvements associated with psychedelic use, or the advocacy of psychedelic use. Taken together, our findings indicate interesting potential analgesic applications for psychedelics that warrant further clinical research.

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