Long-COVID defeated by psychedelics? Case study details unusual recovery
Health & Fitness

Long-COVID defeated by psychedelics? Case study details unusual recovery

A recent case study published in Clinical Case Reports describes the journey of a 41-year-old woman who turned to psilocybin and MDMA to manage her debilitating post-COVID symptoms. The paper raises the intriguing possibility, which is far from certain, that psychedelic substances might help alleviate the psychological and cognitive symptoms associated with Long-COVID.

Long-COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, encompasses a range of symptoms that persist well beyond the initial recovery from COVID-19. These symptoms can include fatigue, cognitive impairment, anxiety, depression, joint pain, and headaches. Despite ongoing research, effective treatment options for Long-COVID remain limited.

Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain mushrooms, has been used in spiritual practices for centuries. In recent years, scientific research has begun to uncover its potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, is another psychoactive substance that has shown promise in clinical settings, especially for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Both psilocybin and MDMA are believed offer therapeutic benefits (when combined with supportive psychotherapy) by enhancing emotional processing and brain connectivity.

The subject of the new case study is a previously healthy 41-year-old woman who experienced severe Long-COVID symptoms after contracting the virus in February 2022. Despite receiving three vaccinations, she developed a wide range of post-COVID symptoms, including severe anxiety, depression, insomnia, joint pain, cognitive difficulties, and a unique type of headache distinct from her pre-existing migraines.

Initial traditional treatments provided little relief. These included medications, physical therapy, massage, intermittent fasting, and meditation. The patient even tried chiropractic and osteopathic therapies, which offered only mild, short-lived improvements. Frustrated by the lack of effective solutions and long wait times at specialized clinics, she decided to explore the use of psychedelics under the guidance of a therapist.

Her first session involved consuming one gram of dried psilocybin mushrooms. She reported a 20% improvement in her symptoms for a week, although she experienced chills during the onset of the drug’s effects. Her second session, which occurred 24 days later, combined MDMA with a higher dose of psilocybin mushrooms, ingested as a tea. This session brought about significant improvements, including a marked reduction in her symptoms and an enhanced sense of well-being. Notably, her cognitive function improved, enabling her to resume her PhD studies and return to work.

Despite experiencing a relapse of symptoms following a non-COVID flu-like illness in early November, another session with psilocybin led to complete remission. The patient reported significant relief and was able to maintain her academic and professional responsibilities.

Case studies offer valuable insights, especially in areas where clinical trials are limited or non-existent. They allow for detailed observation and documentation of an individual’s response to a treatment, providing a rich source of data that can inform future research and clinical practice. In this case, the detailed account of the patient’s experiences highlights the potential of psychedelics as a treatment for Long-COVID symptoms.

However, case studies also come with significant limitations. The findings from a single case cannot be generalized to the wider population. There is a lack of control and randomization, which are critical for establishing causal relationships. Additionally, placebo effects and subjective reporting can influence the perceived outcomes. Despite these limitations, case studies can spark interest and lay the groundwork for more extensive, controlled studies.

“As with any case report, the present study is limited in its generalizability. A universal cause–effect relationship between psychedelics and Long-COVID may not be drawn, particularly given the lack of blinding, randomization, and direct oversight over psychedelics dosing protocol in this study. However, this case reinforces the need for more robust investigation with larger sample sizes into the psychedelics use for a poorly controlled chronic illness such as Long-COVID,” the researchers concluded.

“Long-COVID is a complex condition that can be challenging to manage and treat. Traditional treatment options may not be effective for all individuals, and there is a need for alternative treatment options. We report a case of a patient using psychedelics and seeing dramatic improvement in her Long-COVID symptoms. Further research is needed to determine whether psychedelics are safe and effective for Long-COVID and to understand the potential mechanisms of action.”

The paper, “Long-COVID symptoms improved after MDMA and psilocybin therapy: A case report,” was authored by Harman Chopra, Tim Furnish, Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, David S. Jevotovsky, and Joel Castellanos.