person holding blister pack

After struggling with Long COVID symptoms for over a year, Ruth was willing to try anything to find relief. Fatigue, heart issues, motor dysfunction, cognitive problems, and other debilitating symptoms had taken a toll on her health and quality of life. In December 2021, Ruth turned to an unconventional solution – psychedelic drugs.

Ruth, 31, who preferred to be identified by her first name only, had previous experience with psychedelics and was aware of the research on their potential therapeutic uses. She shared her story with Time magazine.

With nothing to lose, she took a five-gram dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive component of magic mushrooms. The results were astounding. The next morning, Ruth woke up with a normal heart rate, improved breathing, and a significant reduction in her symptoms. Her period stabilized, her brain fog cleared, and her energy levels returned. While Ruth acknowledges that it’s hard for some people to believe, she credits psilocybin for her renewed health. “But it really worked,” she says.

While one person’s experience is not enough to draw scientific conclusions, there is a growing movement to study the potential of psychedelic drugs in treating Long COVID, a chronic condition for which there is currently no proven cure.

The use of psychedelics for Long COVID may seem like an unlikely match. Most of the recent research on psychedelics has focused on mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorder. In comparison, the research on psychedelics and Long COVID is limited, primarily due to the federal classification of psychedelic drugs as illegal substances with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

However, there is a growing body of evidence and interest in this area. Dr. Joel Castellanos, associate medical director at the University of California, San Diego’s Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative, has received feedback from Long COVID patients who have tried or are interested in trying psychedelics. Castellanos is currently working on publishing a case study of a patient who experienced significant improvement in fatigue, headaches, depression, and brain fog after using a combination of psilocybin and MDMA. While case studies do not establish cause and effect, Castellanos is optimistic about the potential of psychedelics in addressing a range of symptoms experienced by patients.

Dr. Sue Sisley, who conducts psilocybin research at Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix and also works in a community Long COVID clinic, became interested in the potential of psychedelics as remedies for Long COVID after hearing positive feedback from patients who were trying them on their own. Patients reported improvements in energy levels, cognitive function, and memory. Initially skeptical, Sisley found it worth exploring as conventional medications did not provide substantial relief for her patients.

Despite the challenges and legal restrictions, the interest in exploring psychedelic drugs as a possible treatment for Long COVID is growing. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms and potential benefits of psychedelics in addressing the complex and varied symptoms of Long COVID. The hope is that further investigation will pave the way for safe and effective treatments for Long COVID patients who continue to suffer from this debilitating condition.

While the research on psychedelics and Long COVID is still in its early stages, there is a growing interest in exploring the potential of these substances as a treatment option. The anecdotal evidence and feedback from patients like Ruth, combined with the expertise of researchers and medical professionals, suggest that further investigation is warranted. With more research and clinical trials, psychedelics could potentially become a valuable addition to the arsenal of treatments for Long COVID, offering hope to patients who are still searching for relief from their persistent symptoms.

By Molly Cowell

Molly is a freelance writer who lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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