Genetics Affects Therapeutic Impact of Psychedelics, New Study Finds

Genetics Affects Therapeutic Impact of Psychedelics, New Study Finds

5-HT2A serotonin receptor
The 5-HT2A serotonin receptor. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Brad Dunn —

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that genetic variations in brain chemistry explains why some people don’t respond as beneficially to psychedelic therapy as others.

A new study from UNC’s School of Medicine, published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, discovered that common variants in the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A explain the disparity in individuals’ treatment outcomes. The research team, led by Dr. Bryan Roth, tested the impact these small genetic differences have on the response to four psychedelics: LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and 5-MeO-DMT.

“Based on our study, we expect that patients with different genetic variations will react differently to psychedelic-assisted treatments,” said Roth, according to UNC Health. “We think physicians should consider the genetics of a patient’s serotonin receptors to identify which psychedelic compound is likely to be the most effective treatment in future clinical trials.”

Serotonin regulates numerous biological processes — including mood, emotion and appetite — and the 5-hydroxytryptamine serotonin receptor (5-HT2A) is specifically responsible for individuals’ reaction to psychedelic drugs.

The new study found that “several naturally occurring, random genetic variations” can affect the structure and function of this receptor. Some increase the response to psychedelics, while others reduced it.

“This is another piece of the puzzle we must know when deciding to prescribe any therapeutic with such dramatic effect aside from the therapeutic effect,” Roth said.


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