Review Examines Trials on Use of Psychedelics by Older Adults

Scientists suggest that psychedelics are safe for use by older individuals when administered in a controlled setting. It should be noted that this safety profile hasn’t been confirmed for older individuals with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease.

Estimates from the CDC show that roughly 60% of older people suffer from at least two chronic illnesses, with 75% of those aged 60 and above being hypertensive. Experts argue that these health challenges may contraindicate the use of psychedelics by older adults.

For their study, the researchers reviewed clinical trials from the last three decades that looked into MDMA and psilocybin-assisted therapies and their effectiveness in treating a range of conditions. Their objective was to determine whether psychedelic-assisted therapies could help relieve psychological distress in older people.

They found no reports of severe adverse reactions among older individuals who took part in the trials, noting that very few of those who received psychedelics were aged 60 and above, with most being relatively healthy. For example, when examining phase 1–3 trials on the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted therapy, the researchers found that the average age of participants was 41.

In their report, they highlighted that prior studies had discovered that certain psychedelics, such as psilocybin and MDMA, could cause arrhythmias as well as increase an individual’s blood pressure. The authors also called attention to one serious case of heart issues that was reported in a trial on MDMA-assisted therapy. Additionally, while a couple of trial participants experienced a spike in their blood pressure as expected, the researchers found no reports of strokes or heart attacks.

Brian Anderson, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, explained that participants becoming hypertensive hadn’t been linked to neurological damage. Anderson, who was the senior author of the review, added that no discernible strokes had occurred in said participants.

The review’s lead, Professor C. Bree Johnston of the University of Arizona, added that the conditions studied, including depression brought on by a terminal disease, were relevant to the elderly. Johnston is also the director of palliative care at Skagit Regional Health.

The authors argued that the findings could also be extended to related conditions that hadn’t been studied, such as grief from a loved one’s death, which affects almost 10% of older individuals. They also underscore that their review wasn’t designed to be conclusive but exploratory. The authors published their findings in the “American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

As efforts to develop psychedelic treatments continue by companies such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL), the safety of these substances for different demographics is likely to become clearer.

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