A groundbreaking research paper, recently published on the official publication of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia entitled “Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine” offers a new take on chronic pain management. Entitled “Chronic pain and psychedelics: a review and proposed mechanism of action”, the paper suggests that the use of psychedelics could potentially reverse the changes in neural connections seen in chronic pain states. Chronic pain can result from many different factors. It is difficult to put an exact number on how many people suffer from this physical problem. However, an estimate of 20.4% adults in the U.S.A suffered from chronic pain in 2016. Many factors, such as years of poor posture and/or traumatic injuries can cause chronic pain. Diseases such as rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and many more could also be the cause lasting or reoccurring pain. This physical suffering can be extremely hard to manage without the help of medical support, and therefore, medication. Chronic pain is the persistence of physical pain, felt in one particular area of the body, or multiple places at once.
These symptoms can last for several weeks or years. As a result, patients are usually left with no other choice but to seek help from health professionals and pharmaceuticals.
The research paper describes chronic pain as being “a complex mechanism that is still not fully understood.” Furthermore, it explains that it is caused by “multiple somatic and visceral afferent pain signals.” Moreover, when these signals are experienced over time, it causes a strengthening of neural circuitry through peripheral and central sensitization. Finally, this results in the physical and emotional perceptual chronic pain experience.” Unfortunately, it has been proven time after that this physical state often leads to an addiction to prescription pills. In the worst cases, this can draw a person to the use of street drugs. So, how would the use psychedelics help? Why, in many ways, would it be better than taking regular pain killers? In the paper, researchers explain that “the mind-altering qualities of psychedelics have been attributed, through serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonism, to ‘reset’ areas of functional connectivity (FC) in the brain that play prominent roles in many central neuropathic states.” Additionally, the researchers confirm that the use of psychedelic substances has “a generally favorable safety profile, especially when compared with opioid analgesics.” Despite the lack of clinical evidence proving the benefits of psychedelics, there have been reports of their analgesic effects in cancer patients. Some reports have also shown benefits for people who suffer from phantom limb pain and severe headaches. As the USA has been facing a serious opioid crisis for several years, with data showing that at least 128 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids, it is now time to consider an alternative to treat victims of chronic pain. Could the use of psychedelics help? Researchers are suggesting to further examination on the matter. Some have advised that funding in such clinical investigations might be worth it. We are yet to hope for further evidence on psychedelics as analgesics.
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