Updated: Jan 9
Over the course of the last few years, research in psychedelic space has been demonstrating hopeful treatment options for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders. A notable absent category in this group is chronic pain.
Chronic pain affects over 20% of the US population annually with little to no long-term treatment options available. Chronic pain is often treated with opiates, benzodiazepines, and anti-depressants but long-term pharmaceutical treatment efficacy remains very low. Many chronic pain patients, unfortunately, end up living in permanent disability and suffering as a result.
While psychedelic research in chronic pain is few and in-between, some studies have demonstrated hopeful results for the treatment of intractable phantom pain, cluster headaches, neuropathic pain, complex regional pain syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
As a trauma therapist and certified holistic chronic pain management coach, I often work with individuals who are experiencing both complex and injury-related chronic pain. While chronic pain is very much a real pain experience, the source of the pain is almost always a sign of dysfunction in the brain. Our brains are dynamic learning machines and can essentially learn to fire pain signals even when no pain signal is generated in the limb. Much of the experience of chronic pain is indeed "learned pain".
While science is still seeking to identify the exact mechanism involved in chronic pain in the brain, there is evidence that pain intensity in chronic pain patients is linked to dysfunction in the default mode network (DMN). The effects of psychedelics on the DMN however are well-documented and verified by fMRI studies suggesting a consistent decrease in DMN functions which are associated with increased mental and emotional well-being.
Holistic pain management often involves a combination of mindfulness practices, neural reprogramming, stress reduction, and dietary changes. Psychedelic medicines offer a new frontier as a support system to enhance the efficacy of all of these interventions.
In my work with chronic pain patients, psychedelic microdosing plays a significant role. Microdosing most notably supports elasticity in the brain making it far easier to break old pain signal patterns and nurture more supportive neural connection formations through mindfulness. Psychedelics also reduce activity in the DMN further supporting a reduction in pain intensity. Lastly, since many psychedelics function by increasing serotonin production in the brain, they are potentially a great treatment for chronic pain treatment as demonstrated by research on the role of serotonin in chronic pain.
While the evidence collected in my practice is neither controlled nor statistically significant to prove the efficacy of psychedelics in the treatment of chronic pain, the track record of success is undeniably hopeful. Every chronic pain patient in my practice that has followed the treatment protocol of mindfulness, somatic therapy, dietary changes, and psychedelic microdosing has experienced a significant reduction or complete recovery from chronic pain regardless of whether the pain was related to injury or complex chronic pain with unknown origin.
If you are experiencing chronic pain and would like to receive a free consultation, you may contact me through my therapy business at www.anahitaanais.com to explore the options available to you. Pain does not have to be your living reality.