February 19, 2015 | by Justine Alford
It’s probably the last thing you’d consider administering to children, but a new study has found that a psychedelic drug, called (R)-DOI, potently prevents the development of allergic asthma in mouse models of the disease, suggesting that the chemical could represent a novel treatment avenue for asthma in humans. But don’t worry, we won’t have asthmatics tripping left, right and center every time they puff their inhalers because even if this does eventually lead to an approved therapy, it’s effective at doses up to 100 times less than those that would influence behavior.
While people may raise one eyebrow at the idea, there is a lot of interesting research into the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD in the treatment of various medical conditions, mainly those related to the brain such as depression, anxiety and addiction. That’s primarily because these drugs increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, our body’s natural mood balancer that is also implicated in the development of these disorders.
But serotonin isn’t just found in the brain; it also acts on other neurons throughout the body, such as those in the gastrointestinal tract to regulate appetite and digestion. Furthermore, it’s also been known for some time that it is involved in inflammation. Although asthma is an inflammatory disease, no one knew whether serotonin played a precise role in the disease.