Disclosures: Simonsson reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
March 11, 2021
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Lifetime psychedelic use may reduce likelihood of hypertension

Disclosures: Simonsson reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Lifetime classic psychedelic use, particularly tryptamines, may be linked to lower odds for hypertension in the previous year, according to data published in Hypertension.

“The results showed that lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a 14% lower odds of hypertension in the past year and that lifetime tryptamine use was associated with a 20% lower odds of hypertension in the past year,” Otto Simonsson, DPhil, from the department of sociology at the University of Oxford, and colleagues wrote. “These findings may prove valuable for understanding the physical health outcomes of classic psychedelic use, with rigorous randomized controlled trials warranted to investigate potential causal pathways of classic psychedelics on blood pressure.”

Lifetime classic psychedelic use, particularly tryptamines, may be linked to lower odds for hypertension in the previous year. Data were derived from Simonsson O, et al. Hypertension. 2021;doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.16715.

Psychedelic use and hypertension

For this analysis, researchers utilized data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population, to determine the relationship between lifetime classic psychedelic use and hypertension in the past year.

Psychedelics included tryptamines such as N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ayahuasca or psilocybin; LSD; and phenethylamine.

According to the study, lifetime psychedelic use was more commonly reported among individuals who:

  • were middle-aged;
  • were non-Hispanic white or non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native;
  • had greater educational attainment;
  • had greater income;
  • had never been married or were divorced/separated;
  • engaged in risky behavior;
  • had lifetime use of other illicit substances;
  • had lifetime use of tobacco;
  • first used alcohol before age 20 years; and
  • had a history of depression or anxiety (P for all < .0001).

Researchers found lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with 14% lower odds of hypertension in the past year (adjusted OR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.81-0.91; P < .0001).

However, among the three classes of psychedelics, only lifetime tryptamine use was associated with lower odds of hypertension (aOR for lifetime tryptamine use = 0.8; 95% CI, 0.73-0.89; P < .0001; aOR for lifetime LSD use = 0.96; 95% CI, 0.87-1.05; P = .3361; aOR for lifetime phenethylamine use = 0.97; 95% CI, 0.87-1.08; P = .5595).

Therapeutic potential

“Tryptamines have been shown to have affinity for and agonist activity at serotonin 1A receptors. The serotonin 1A receptor has been associated with antidepressant (but possibly also antihypertensive) effects when activated and could offer a pharmacological explanation for the results in the present study,” the researchers wrote. “In addition, previous research suggests that tryptamine use may hold the greatest therapeutic potential with regard to mental health, which might also help to explain why lifetime tryptamine use had the strongest association with hypertension in the past year among the three classes of classic psychedelics.”

The findings were consistent even after adjustment for history of anxiety or depression.

Researchers conducted a secondary analysis that adjusted for recency of psychedelic use. The only drug documented for recent use was LSD, and recency data did not change the main findings, the researchers wrote.

“Caution should be exercised in inferring causality. The present results are primarily conceptualized as a catalyst for further research on the link between classic psychedelic use and long-term trends in blood pressure, with rigorous randomized controlled trials needed to better test cause-and-effect relationships,” the researchers wrote.