The Sanctuary Wellness Institute does not offer Psilocybin Therapy. This web page is meant for informational use only.
Psilocybin and Dementia
Psilocybin, a psychedelic compound present within “magic mushrooms,” has been touted as a miracle treatment by many. Psilocybin offers numerous psychological benefits, including mood improvement and anxiety alleviation. It also works well in treating chronic mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression.
Research shows that psilocybin also improves cognition by facilitating synaptogenesis, or creating new synaptic connections in the brain. Cognitive impairment is one major symptom of dementia, as patients often suffer memory loss and confusion.
So if this psychedelic drug can improve cognition, can it also treat dementia? What makes psilocybin especially effective for dementia patients as opposed to treatment with other classic psychedelics such as DMT, ketamine, or MDMA? Finally, is there a potential for psilocybin to alleviate the symptoms of dementia?
Keep reading to find out.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is the loss of cognitive function to such an extent that it negatively impacts a person's daily life. The loss of cognitive functions caused by dementia includes thinking, remembering, and reasoning. Depending on the severity, dementia ranges from the mildest stage to its most severe stage. At the mild stage, it is just beginning to affect day-to-day functioning, but when it is most severe, people with dementia depend totally on other people every day.
A report from Alzheimer's Disease International shows that more women live with dementia than men. Clinical trials suggest that this increase could be due to the female hormone estrogen. Besides, the symptoms are more severe for women. Generally, dementia is most common in older adults, as about one-third of all people aged 85 or older experience some form of dementia.
Symptoms of Dementia
The symptoms of dementia vary, but they can become obvious when nerve cells or healthy neurons in certain brain regions die or stop working. There are several symptoms of dementia, which include.
- Disorientation and Confusion
- Difficulty solving problems and reasoning
- Difficulty with organizing and planning
- Difficulty finding words and communicating
- Getting lost or wandering in a supposedly familiar neighborhood
- Asking questions repeatedly
- Memory loss
- Inappropriate behavior
Traditional Dementia Treatments
Since there is currently no cure for dementia, the current treatments are mostly about arresting its symptoms. To help with dementia symptoms, there are several traditional treatments available, which include medication, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
Medications for treating dementia include cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine. These medications help slow the degradation of brain chemicals responsible for judgment and memory. Another medication for dementia is Memantine which works by slowing the breakdown of chemicals responsible for memory and learning.
Also, medications like Antidepressants and anxiolytics improve mood and ease anxiety, respectively, while antipsychotic medicines will help control behaviors like agitation, hallucinations, and aggression.
Therapies that would work well to treat dementia include:
- Reminiscence therapy involves talking about loved ones, school days, favorite hobbies, etc.
- Cognitive stimulation therapy is a structured group program ideal for people with mild to moderate dementia. While in the group, patients play word games, sing and talk about current events.
- Reality orientation training involves going through the basic things like date, time, and a person's name. It could also involve placing signs around the home.
Lifestyle change as a treatment involves staying active and focusing on foods like berries, nuts, beans, fish, and vegetables that enhance the brain. It also involves getting good sleep, staying organized, and challenging the brain.
Can Psilocybin Treat Dementia?
There has been proclamations of psilocybin and its benefits by several psychedelic research organizations since the drug was designated as a "breakthrough therapy" by the FDA in 2018. Since then, microdosing psilocybin has proven effective in treating some mental health conditions like anxiety and PTSD.
However, with research showing the positive effects of psilocybin and other psychedelics on brain networks, some neuroscience professionals strongly believe small doses of psilocybin can treat dementia and improve patients’ quality of life. Psilocybin helps facilitate the process of synaptogenesis, which is the creation of new synaptic connections on exposure to neurons. In other words, it causes the outgrowth of a new network of neurons to enter the brain.
Asides from creating new connections and rewiring neurons, psilocybin also has neuroplastic and anti-inflammatory properties that can improve the cognitive abilities of people who have dementia. Not only does it improve cognition and combat neurodegeneration, but psilocybin has antidepressant effects as well.
It is important to note that psilocybin and its effects on dementia differ from one patient to another. This is why the recommendation is to take psilocybin under supervision in a controlled setting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although dementia has similarities to tripping like hallucinations, they are quite different. Dementia is a mental health condition with a wide range of symptoms, including memory loss and loss of cognition. On the other hand, tripping is a metaphor for the hallucinatory high derived from consuming LSD and other drugs.
A drug called Lecanemab has become one of the first dementia drugs to slow the progression of dementia in people. This is especially true for cognitive decline. It works by decreasing tangles and plaques in the brain that progress to dementia.
The eyes often undergo little changes when dementia starts setting in. For instance, for people with a genetic disposition for frontotemporal dementia, the retina size decreases and color changes. Dementia also comes with visual perception difficulties, including the diminishing ability to detect movement, blurring, and reduction in peripheral vision.
People with dementia have the same thoughts as the rest of us. They think about daily life, relationships, tasks, and more. Having dementia does not make one less human. What the disease does is change how dementia patients interact with the world. This is especially true with disease progression as they start having issues with planning and decision-making, language, mood, and behavior.
The signs that dementia is getting worse include an increase in confusion and poor judgment. Other signs include a higher degree of memory loss and needing assistance with simple daily tasks like bathing, dressing, and grooming. Also, agitation, aggression, paranoia, and hallucinations are other signs that show that dementia is getting worse.