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Psychedelic use associated with lower odds of heart disease and diabetes, study finds

  • 03/11/202103/11/2021

People who have tried a psychedelic drug at least once in their lifetime have lower odds of heart disease and diabetes, according to new research published in Scientific Reports. The new findings highlight the need for further research to investigate the link between psychedelics and cardiometabolic health.

“In our previous research, we have found associations between lifetime classic psychedelic use and lower odds of being overweight or obese as well as lower odds of having hypertension in the past year, both of which are risk factors of cardiometabolic disease,” said study author Otto Simonsson of the University of Oxford. “We therefore wanted to look specifically at the link between lifetime classic psychedelic use and cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.”

In an article published in Journal of Psychopharmacology this year, researchers argued “that psychedelic substances such as psilocybin could be used to assist in promoting positive lifestyle change conducive to good overall health,” noting that the use of psychedelic drugs has been associated with spontaneous changes in health-related behaviors, such as reducing alcohol consumption and exercising more.

Simonsson and his colleagues noted in their current study that psychedelics have also “been shown to improve mental health conditions associated with cardiometabolic diseases” and to have some anti-inflammatory properties.

To examine the relationship between psychedelic use and physical health, the researchers examined data from more than 375,000 Americans who had participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Participants reported whether they had ever used the classic psychedelic substances DMT, ayahuasca, LSD, mescaline, peyote or San Pedro, or psilocybin. They also reported whether they had been diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes in the past year.

The researchers found that the prevalence of both conditions was lower among psychedelic users. Approximately 2.3% of those who had ever used a psychedelic reported heart disease in the past year, compared to 4.5% of those who reported never using a psychedelic drug. Similarly, 3.95% of those who had ever used a psychedelic reported diabetes in the past year, compared to 7.7% of those who reported never using a psychedelic drug.

“The findings suggest that lifetime classic psychedelic use is associated with lower odds of having had heart disease or diabetes in the past year,” Simonsson told PsyPost.

The researchers controlled for age, gender, marital status, race, annual household income, level of education, engagement in risky behavior, and the use of other types of drugs. But the findings come with an important caveat.

“The direction of causality remains unknown,” Simonsson said. “Future trials with double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled designs are needed to establish whether classic psychedelic use may reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases and, if so, through which mechanisms.”

The study, “Associations between lifetime classic psychedelic use and cardiometabolic diseases“, was authored by Otto Simonsson, Walter Osika, Robin Carhart-Harris, and Peter S. Hendricks.