While work continues to better understand and treat long COVID, one 41-year-old woman has found remarkable relief from her symptoms through the use of psychedelics: specifically, MDMA (3.4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.

Both mind-altering drugs were taken in consultation with a therapist, and according to the patient, they offered "significant improvement" in long COVID symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, joint pain, and headaches.

A published paper on the case study does not say where the woman is from, but its authors are located in the United States.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized MDMA or psilocybin for medical use at a federal level, but two states, Oregon and Colorado, have voted to legalize certain psychedelic-assisted therapies. Other places in the world, like Australia, are also trialing the use of psilocybin- and MDMA-assisted therapy for various mental health conditions.

But until this particular case study, there was no prior literature on the use of MDMA or psilocybin for long COVID treatment. The report suggests psychedelics might be one way of tackling a debilitating condition with few treatments that now affects millions of people worldwide.

The woman in the case study was healthy prior to contracting COVID-19 in February 2022, and she had received three vaccinations for the virus. Her reported symptoms of long COVID included severe anxiety and depression, as well as debilitating headaches and cognitive difficulties.

She told researchers she tried a variety of methods to try and get some relief: fasting, massage therapy, acupuncture, and meditation, for example. This either didn't work at all, or only provided temporary relief from her symptoms.

After sitting on a waitlist for a long COVID clinic, the patient decided to try psychedelics under the guidance of a therapist. In May 2022, the woman started with a gram of dried and whole 'golden teacher' Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. This led to a week of lessening symptom severity, but also sensations of chills and shivering as the effects wore off.

Almost a month later, she tried a dose of 125 milligrams of MDMA, followed by two separate doses of psilocybin. Following this session, she said her symptoms improved 80 percent overall, and that she was able to resume her PhD studies.

"The patient reported a slower build-up without shivering and reported feeling very detached from long COVID symptoms," write the researchers in their published paper.

"The patient's experience while under the influence of MDMA and psilocybin was reported as feelings of being in a childlike state, having an intense connection to nature, and of being in an alternate reality."

Over the weeks and months that followed, there were minor setbacks and a couple of additional doses of psilocybin. By the end of 2022, the woman was able to report "complete resolution of her symptoms" and go back to full-time work.

This link between long COVID and psychedelics isn't without explanation: previous studies have linked long COVID to damage in the brain, while many long COVID sufferers report having brain fog as one of their symptoms. It's possible that psychedelics that interact with the brain could have some positive impact on those symptoms.

However, this is just one, single case study without randomization, a control group, or dosage control. And while other anecdotal reports of psychedelics improving long COVID symptoms exist, scientists know this is a complex condition that affects people differently, and some thorough scientific research is going to be needed before we get close to seeing psychedelics being approved as forms of treatment (even if they have shown potential in helping with other conditions).

Researchers at Columbia University have launched a small pilot trial to explore whether single-dose hallucinogenic treatments can really relieve long COVID symptoms.

"Further research is needed to determine whether psychedelics are safe and effective for long COVID and to understand the potential mechanisms of action," conclude the authors of the recent clinical report.

The research has been published in Clinical Case Reports.