Psychedelic Science 2023

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Psychedelics and Sexual Functioning: a Mixed-Method Study in Healthy and Depressed Subjects

PS2023-184-tn

Psychedelics and Sexual Functioning: a Mixed-Method Study in Healthy and Depressed Subjects

Psychedelic drugs have been associated with "free love" ideologies during the 60s and the 70s and anecdotal evidence indicates a positive effect of LSD on acceptance of sexual feelings and behaviours. However, the cultural association between psychedelics and "free-love" did not translate into the modern scientific research domain. When comparing psilocybin-assisted therapy with SSRI treatment we recently found that the SSRI escitalopram induced sexual dysfunction while psilocybin did not appear to cause it. Beyond not causing sexual dysfunction, the existing anecdotal evidence possibly indicates that psychedelics might promote a form of "sexual flourishing", defined as a set of positive changes in attitudes about sex, one's body, and romantic partners. Previous research indeed showed that psychedelics promote enduring feelings of empathy and connectedness, positive attitudes towards one's lifestyle, and increased openness to experiences. For this reason, we investigated the impact of psychedelics on different facets of one's sexual functioning, from experienced pleasure to connection with one's partner, either in healthy or depressed subjects using single item analyses. Results indicated that after naturalistic psychedelic use healthy subjects experienced moderate improvements in sexual functioning and satisfaction lasting up to 6 months. We also found that depressed patients treated with psilocybin experienced positive effects on their sexual functioning, while patients treated with escitalopram did not. The talk will additionally cover anectodal evidence on the potential of psychedelics to improve romantic relationships, together with insights on the future of this field of research.

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