Could Cannabis Address the Placebo Challenge in Psychedelic Trials?

Psychology Today article suggests it could alleviate problems with an inactive placebo.

In psychedelic-assisted therapy trials, a significant challenge arises as participants easily distinguish between the effects of placebos and active drugs. Psychology Today suggests that cannabis may offer a solution to this issue.

People administered cannabis can experience effects similar to classic psychedelics like LSD. Joel Frohlich, a neuroscientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, proposes that despite distinct differences, cannabis, specifically THC, could serve as a more suitable control compared to non-psychoactive substances like antidepressants. Frohlich references a recent study on comparing the effects of THC in pill form (Marinol), a microdose of LSD, and a medicinal form of methamphetamine similar to ADHD drugs.

Volunteers reported feeling the most pronounced “high” during the THC session, around a solid 6 or 7 on a scale of 10. The effects of methamphetamine and LSD were weaker, expected given the microdose of LSD. Additionally, both THC and LSD increased anxiety, with THC showing a stronger impact.

While LSD and psilocybin alleviate depression by acting on the 5HT2a receptor and increasing neuroplasticity, cannabis lacks this specific impact on the brain. However, its ability to induce perceptual changes makes it a potentially more relevant comparison in psychedelic drug trials than a simple inactive placebo, according to Frohlich.