A group of North Carolina researchers has found evidence that genes affect the psychedelic experiences of different individuals.
These findings might explain why some individuals have little to no response to certain psychedelics while others have a very strong response to small doses.
According to Bryan Roth, MD, PhD, the Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, who led the UNC School of Medicine research, these disparities can be potentially explained by common genetic variations in one serotonin receptor.
The researchers studied four psychedelic substances psilocin, LSD, 5-MeO-DMT, and mescaline, and identified seven variants that impact the 5HT2A receptor's response to these compounds. The 5HT2A serotonin receptor is believed to be the key receptor targeted by psychedelic substances.
In order to explore the potential variables in psychedelic experiences, researchers looked at how different combinations of drugs and genetic variants of the 5HT2A receptor resulted in different response variables involving G proteins or β-arrestins.
They discovered that variations in the 5HT2A receptor led to drug potency variables, in some cases a 10X increase in potency was detected although most variables were “statistically significant, although modest” according to the study authors.
Dr. Roth explains “Based on our study, we expect that patients with different genetic variations will react differently to psychedelic-assisted treatments,” she goes on to suggest, “We think physicians should consider the genetics of a patient’s serotonin receptors to identify which psychedelic compound is likely to be the most effective treatment in future clinical trials.”
These findings are yet another important milestone highlighting the critical importance of a personalized medicine approach to psychedelic-assisted therapies and interventions.
Further research is needed to further science's understanding of how different psychedelic substances affect individuals with different genetic makeups and develop a more personalized, safe, and effective approach to psychedelic intervention on an individual level.