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Older People Don’t Trip As Hard on Psychedelics As Younger Demographics, According to Research

This might make psychedelics safer for them, according to research published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

DoubleBlind Mag

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DoubleBlind // Science

A recent study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry explored how psychedelics affect older people, a topic with little existing research. After reviewing surveys from 62 people aged 60 or older who had attended psychedelic ceremonies or retreats, researchers had several interesting findings. While the overall well-being of older adults improved after psychedelic experiences, they experienced milder psychedelic effects compared to younger adults. This may be due to age-dependent reductions in serotonin receptor density at the 2A receptor, which is the primary target of psychedelics. 

Surprisingly, the older adults’ improvement in well-being wasn’t tied to the drug’s immediate effects, but to the social connections they felt during the retreats. This research suggests that the acute effects of psychedelics—such as ego dissolution and mystical and emotional breakthrough experiences—might not be the only key to mental health improvements. In other words, older adults might feel better through the social and relational benefits of psychedelics, rather than individual experiences. 

READ: Which Psychedelic Mushroom Is the Strongest?

This research is significant because current models propose that ego disturbances and other intense psychedelic experiences are key to mental health improvements and that older people who trip have a higher likelihood of challenging experiences. In contrast, this study found that older adults had less intense psychedelic experiences compared to younger adults, which might make psychedelics safer for them. The well-being of the older adults still improved, suggesting that the social and emotional aspects of group sessions might be more important for them than the drug’s effects themselves. The researchers also hypothesized that the intensity of challenging psychedelic experiences might peak amongst younger adults, and remain stable after a certain age. 

However, six months after their treatments, well-being levels returned to baseline for older adults, unlike in younger adults, where improvements often last longer. This raises questions about when psychedelic benefits last long-term and why. The study was also limited in its focus on retreat settings and mostly white, educated participants. Also, the study didn’t track exact doses or other substances participants might have used, which could have affected results.

Still, this research supports the idea that psychedelics could safely help to treat mental health disorders like depression, alcohol use, and anorexia nervosa in older people. In an age where loneliness is a widespread issue across all age groups, it highlights the importance of nurturing healthy social connections in the elderly—both during and outside of psychedelic sessions. 

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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