Psychedelics May Help To Treat Stuttering

Psychedelics May Help To Treat Stuttering

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms may be worth a shot when it comes to treating development stuttering, according to the authors of a new study. Analyzing all the available evidence supporting the use of hallucinogens as potential therapies for stammering, the researchers conclude that some mind-altering compounds may help to restore the neural imbalances that lead to impaired speech control.

Developmental stuttering (DS) is a speech-motor disorder that encompasses numerous sub-types and symptoms, making the condition extremely complex and difficult to treat. As the study authors explain, the disorder is also likely to involve an array of different neurological processes, and our understanding of the brain mechanisms that cause stammering is still incomplete.

However, given what we know about psychedelics and their apparent ability to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues, the researchers speculate that these drugs may have the potential to act upon “maladaptive neural functions in DS, thus restoring a more ‘adaptive’ plasticity in the neural networks involved.” In particular, they say that psychedelics could help to prevent speech-motor networks from becoming dysregulated as a result of anxiety – a trait that is strongly associated with stuttering.

Drawing on a growing body of evidence, the study authors report that social anxiety is highly prevalent among people who stammer, and that this may “act in significantly worsening speech-motor performance and fluency.” The ability of psychedelics to alleviate anxiety and depression could therefore provide the key to better speech control, they hypothesize.

At the same time, recent studies have hinted that activity within a brain region called the amygdala – which plays a role in fear and emotional regulation – may be correlated with stuttering. Separate research on psychedelics has revealed that these compounds reduce over-activity in the amygdala, providing yet more rationale for their use as therapeutic agents for DS.

However, despite these arguments, the study authors note that there have been no proper studies on the use of psychedelics for stuttering, which means it’s impossible to draw any solid conclusions at this stage. Having said that, there are a few anecdotal reports of hallucinogenic drugs alleviating symptoms of DS.

A case report published last year, for instance, described a 60-year-old woman who had stuttered her entire life, but experienced an almost immediate resolution of her speech disorder after receiving ketamine treatment for depression. Meanwhile, an analysis of relevant posts on Reddit found that three-quarters of those who reported using psychedelics for DS had a positive outcome, with around 60 percent indicating reduced stuttering and improved speech control.

Combining all of these arguments, the researchers propose that psychedelics may treat DS by helping neural activity to become more focused while talking, ultimately leading to greater speech fluency. They therefore call for clinical trials to be conducted, and announce that they are currently in the process of securing funding to begin studying the impact of psychedelics on developmental stuttering.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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