According to the CDC, one in five Americans suffer from chronic pain, and about 8% of those people notice an interference in their daily lives because of it. These cases of chronic pain can be caused by a wide range of things, most notably injuries or underlying diseases such as cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and osteoporosis, among others.
Lyme Disease can also cause severe chronic pain in some individuals, and relief is often hard for them to find. However, one woman accidentally discovered relief for her Lyme Disease pain in what could have been a very dangerous situation.
Disclaimer: Do not try this at home.
CB is one of three people studied in a case report done by researcher Mark Haden. CB is a 46-year-old woman who battles with chronic Lyme Disease, and has severe chronic pain because of it. She has struggled for years to ease her symptoms, up until she discovered an accidental miracle cure that would change her life forever — and for the better.
Lyme Disease is transmitted to humans through bites from black-legged or deer ticks infected with a certain bacteria. There are a few different types of bacteria that can infect a tick and cause Lyme Disease. It is the most common tick-borne illness in both Europe and the US, and is particularly common in wooded areas. The infected tick has to be present on a person’s skin for at least 36 hours in order for the infection to be transmitted, so a tick bite isn’t an automatic Lyme Disease-sentence.
However, with a bug as tiny as a tick, people often don’t notice it or the bite until long past those first 36 hours. After a person has been bitten by an infected tick, an early sign of Lyme Disease is the skin’s reaction to the bite. Between three and 30 days after the tick has been removed, a red area expands around the bite with a cleared-up bullseye in the center. It generally isn’t itchy or painful, but instead just warm to the touch.
Because it can be hard to know whether or not you’ve been bitten by a tick, let alone an infected tick, it’s important to be safe if spending time in wooded and grassy areas where ticks thrive. It’s recommended to wear long sleeves and long pants in order to minimize the amount of skin exposed and available for ticks to attach on to, and use insect repellants. However, if you are bitten by a tick, be sure to detach it quickly with tweezers so as not to be infected.
Once Lyme Disease becomes serious, some of the predominant symptoms include joint pain and neurological problems. Oftentimes, knees will swell and ache, but the pain can move to other joints as well. Lyme Disease can also lead to arthritis and other complications including impaired muscle movement and inflamed eyes, liver, or brain. The chronic pain interferes in the daily lives of Lyme Disease sufferers.
If treatment begins quickly, it can be effective. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime can be used for 14 to 21 days to treat early stages of Lyme Disease. However, if the disease has already reached a person’s central nervous system, a doctor may recommend intravenous antibiotics for 14 to 28 days. Intravenous antibiotics can rid the body of infection, but they come with their own side effects, and Lyme Disease symptoms may persist for some time after treatment ends.
There’s a short window of time when Lyme Disease is treatable, but once it progresses, antibiotics are ineffective in treating it. Some people experience post-Lyme Disease, which could be caused by their predisposition to autoimmune diseases. Often, these people continue to experience muscle aches and fatigue. Once the disease is no longer treatable, the pain they experience becomes a chronic issue.
As with most conditions that come with chronic pain, there are few ways to truly find relief, so sufferers generally are forced to rely on pain medication to ease their symptoms. They may take anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, or neuropathic drugs. When the chronic pain is severe, they may even take opioids such as codeine or morphine in order to live their daily lives without interference.
As a chronic Lyme Disease sufferer, CB has been reliant on opioids to manage her symptoms and pain. She has taken morphine every day for seven years in order to cope with the pain and live her life. However, morphine has some serious withdrawal effects including nausea, depression, and anxiety, as well as an addiction to the morphine itself. For CB, the relief from her pain was worth the opioid reliance for a long time.
For those who fear opioid addiction, homeopathic remedies may help ease symptoms and pain caused by Lyme Disease as well. Some people have turned to fish oil, vitamins B and C, magnesium, garlic, or turmeric to help ease their symptoms, although there is no evidence that supplements can cure the disease. Some people believe that essential oils like cinnamon bark, clove bud, and oregano can kill the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, although this has not been proven in humans who are already carrying it.
Once the disease progresses and antibiotics can no longer relieve symptoms, Lyme Disease becomes a chronic issue with no known cure. Pain medication is needed regularly in order to ease symptoms, but neither opioids nor homeopathic remedies can fully cure the chronic pain for good. Unfortunately, most chronic Lyme Disease sufferers must learn to live with their pain.
CB was not looking for a new alternative way to cope with her pain when she accidentally discovered total relief. She was perhaps looking for an escape, but she made a mistake that almost turned deadly. The 46-year-old Lyme Disease sufferer found a way to both combat her pain as well as stave off her morphine withdrawal symptoms.
CB snorted 55 milligrams of what she believed was cocaine, but had a very different reaction than she was expecting. She then asked her roommate if it was in fact cocaine, and was told the drug was actually the psychedelic LSD. An average dose of LSD is only about 0.1 milligrams, so the woman had accidentally overdosed by a large margin.
The term “psychedelic” literally means “mind manifesting,” which implies that the drug can alter a person’s mind. It was coined by a British psychiatrist named Humphrey Osmond. Psychedelic drugs include LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. Some people consider cannabis a mild psychedelic as well, because of its similar properties and end results after smoking.
While an average dose of LSD is between 0.065 and 0.175 milligrams, an average dose of snorted cocaine is between 30 and 70 milligrams. Therefore, a dose of LSD is at least 300 times smaller than a dose of cocaine. This makes it incredibly easy to overdose, especially if a person is unsure what drug they are taking. However, drug toxicity researcher Robert Gable says, “The smaller the dose of a substance, the less likely it is to cause physiological death,” meaning LSD and other psychedelics are generally considered safer than other drugs with higher needed doses to feel effects.
Despite a dose being only 0.065 milligrams small, an average acid trip can last between eight and 12 hours. During this time, a wide variety of things can happen to a person’s mind: they can hallucinate, seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there, they can feel intense emotions such as euphoria, their senses could become distorted, and they may experience paranoia. Some acid trips can be enjoyable for the user, but there’s also the possibility of a bad trip when taken while in a bad mood. LSD can be very unpredictable.
While the average acid trip lasts between eight and 12 hours, CB’s overdose trip lasted 34 hours. That’s almost a full day and a half. By taking 55 milligrams of LSD, she had really taken 550 times the amount most LSD users would recommend, because she didn't know it was LSD she was taking and not cocaine. This seems like an absurd amount, and should have had terribly dangerous consequences for the woman. However, this was not the case.
CB’s initial bodily response to the LSD overdose is what we would expect: she reacted very badly. For the first 12 hours, what would normally be the time the acid trip would take place, she was mostly blacked out but remembers vomiting quite a bit. After that, she was still vomiting a lot, but could feel the pleasant high that an average dose of LSD would give its user. She was frothing at the mouth and saying random words that she was unable to control.
After her 34-hour acid trip, something amazing happened. The chronic pain due to Lyme Disease CB had dealt with and relied on morphine for for seven years was totally gone. She had accidentally discovered a miracle cure for her pain. She no longer felt the need to take the morphine she so heavily relied on anymore. The LSD overdose had somehow altered her brain enough to make the pain simply go away.
After the overdose, her chronic pain was gone for five days before she needed something else for pain management. She continued taking morphine at a lower dose, and also started microdosing LSD every three days. This time, rather than taking 55 milligrams, she took a quarter of the average dose of LSD. After three years of microdosing, she no longer needed the morphine at all.
She realized she didn’t need to take morphine anymore, not just because the LSD was easing her pain, but it was also easing her morphine withdrawal symptoms as well. Those first five days after her LSD overdose, she experienced none of the usual morphine withdrawal symptoms. After three years of microdosing, she no longer felt any withdrawal symptoms at all.
There have been no recorded cases of overdoses of LSD, or any other psychedelic drug, resulting in death. The real danger comes in when a person using a psychedelic drug either combines it with another psychoactive substance, uses the drug in an unsafe way, such as injecting something that should not be injected, or makes a bad judgment call like stumbling into oncoming traffic. Pharmacologist David Nichols says, “There are no known overdose deaths from recreational doses,” of LSD. Still, we wouldn't recommend trying this at home.
In an even wilder accidental overdose case, eight people took about 1000 times the average LSD dose, and miraculously all of them survived. Four men and four women at a party also mistook LSD for cocaine as CB did, but they took between 260 and 2100 hits of LSD each. Within minutes, all eight people were in the hospital, five of them comatose. Three of them even stopped breathing and needed ventilators in order to breathe. However, about 12 hours later, all eight of them had recovered, and none had memories of being admitted to the hospital at all.
In another wild instance included in Mark Haden’s case report alongside CB, a 26-year-old woman took about five times an average LSD dose and later learned that she was pregnant at the time. Not only did she not have any complications with her pregnancy, but the baby was also born in perfect health. That baby is now 18 years old, and is still in good health. The LSD seemed to have no adverse effects, short or long term, on the pregnant mother or her child.
With no recorded deaths, a fairly safe if not sometimes beneficial overdose experience, and no adverse effects on pregnancy, LSD seems to be one of the safer drugs in existence. Mark Haden has even gone so far as to call it non-toxic. “It’s a remarkably safe product,” he says. “It’s unusual.”
As LSD is considered non-toxic and has the capabilities to ease chronic pain, its use could be beneficial for many people, especially those with chronic conditions such as Lyme Disease. While drugs like morphine are addictive and have very serious withdrawal symptoms, LSD not only is without those withdrawal symptoms, but can also ease them for people who choose to slowly wean off the opioid like CB did. Therefore, LSD could be a better alternative to morphine for pain management.
Believe it or not, there are actually many known cases of people accidentally overdosing on LSD or other psychedelics and finding relief for symptoms of their long term ailments. Psychedelics can potentially help ease symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and pain caused by other conditions such as cancer.
Another example in Mark Haden’s case study was about a 15-year-old Canadian girl with bipolar disorder. She took about 100 times an average dose of LSD, and for the next six hours, she was in the fetal position, her friends unsure if she was having a seizure or was unconscious. They called an ambulance for her, and when she woke up, she told her father that she was no longer experiencing bipolar episodes. It has now been close to 20 years since her overdose, and she still appears to be cured of her mania and depression brought on by bipolar disorder.
Other studies have shown psychedelics easing often hard to treat conditions like depression and anxiety. DMT and Psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, have properties that are believed to lessen these ailments and even hold up long term for people who suffer chronic anxiety and depression. In the same way LSD “reset” the mind of the 15-year-old girl with bipolar disorder, these psychedelics reset the minds of people suffering difficult mental health issues as well.
LSD was first created as part of a medical research program in 1938, five years before it was found to be hallucinogenic, and a few decades before it found widespread use recreationally. Therefore it’s not surprising that the drug has been tested on terminally ill cancer patients. LSD is able to change the way these terminally ill people think, and allow them to face death easier and more calmly. It changes their whole perspective and outlook.
In one study, 29 cancer patients were given either psilocybin or Vitamin B alongside psychotherapy sessions. The patients taking psilocybin were found to be in better spirits overall than those taking Vitamin B. Their anxiety and depression that came with their cancer diagnoses had immediately been reduced, and they stayed less anxious and depressed for months after the study ended.
Neuroscience and chemistry researchers at the University of California Davis microdosed rats with DMT to study the effects of the drug on their behavior and mood. They found that it lowered their levels of anxiety and fear. The rats were dosed every three days for two months and then given a series of tests including being placed in a container of water and examined for their responses. Rats who stop swimming are viewed as hopeless and depressed, but the rats microdosed with DMT were found to be less depressed than the rats who weren’t.
Conventional methods of treating social anxiety have been shown to be less effective in adults with autism. However, MDMA has been tested in this demographic and proves more beneficial. Similar to the cancer patient study, adults with social anxiety and autism were given either MDMA or a placebo along with psychotherapy and then studied. The people who took MDMA were found to be less anxious both immediately after the study, and six months later.
Johns Hopkins is currently studying psilocybin as a way to help treat anorexia. While the trials will last two to three years before a definitive answer can be taken from the research, they are hopeful that the drug will be effective. In 2017, a study was done with 16 participants with eating disorders who were given a psychedelic brew called ayahuasca from the Amazon. Fourteen of the 16 participants reported more control over their emotions, and 11 noticed fewer symptoms.
Military veteran Virgil Huston took MDMA alongside psychotherapy and thanks the drug for saving his life and curing his post-traumatic stress disorder. He had previously taken multiple antianxiety and antidepressant drugs, but found no relief from his PTSD symptoms. In the study, he took MDMA three times under the supervision of a therapist. The MDMA allowed him to look at his traumatic experiences in a non-threatening way, changing the way he looked at them and allowing him to really talk about them for the first time. He says since then, those traumatic memories of war no longer haunt him, and he’s not experiencing nightmares like he used to.