Psilocybin may help treat alcoholism, study suggests

REMOVEby the time Jon Kostas was 25, he was desperate to beat Alcoholism. He started drinking at the age of 13 and tried various treatments – going to Alcoholics meetings, taking pharmaceutical drugs and trying rehabilitation on patients – but to no avail. . However, since 2015, when he was in a clinical trial that combined talk therapy and psilocybin – illusion active ingredient in magic mushrooms — Kostas has given up alcohol. “I am forever grateful and indebted,” he said. “This saved my life.”

A randomized clinical trial, published August 24 in the journal JAMA Psychiatric Departmentfound that when combined with psychotherapy, psilocybin has helped treat people’s alcohol use disorder. Analyzing a group of 93 patients with the condition — among them Kostas — for 32 weeks, the researchers found that the patients who received psilocybin plus psychotherapy (48 in total) had reduced their intake by 83% within eight months of their first dose, compared with 51% among those who received a placebo. Nearly half of those treated with psilocybin stopped drinking alcohol altogether, compared with less than a quarter of those who received a placebo alone.

“If these effects are replicated, I think this would really be a big deal,” said Dr. Michael Bogenschutz, director of New York University’s Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine and senior author of the study. breakthrough. “The effects seem to persist. And the effects are greater than any other treatment currently available,” including methods such as patient rehabilitation, talk therapy, and medication.

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A more effective treatment for alcoholism could have far-reaching effects on society as a whole. About 95,000 Americans died of alcohol-related causes per year, including alcoholic liver disease and car accidents, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A federation in 2021 analysis of Americans before the pandemic found that while about 5% of American adults – about 14.1 million people – had an alcohol use disorder in the last year, only 7% of them received any treatment and only less than 3% were treated with drugs. However, even when people are treated, approved drugs such as naltrexone have been shown to only limited effectiveness.

New research adds the strongest evidence yet that psilocybin may be a promising treatment for substance use disorders. Other preliminary research by Bogenschutz and other researchers in 2015 found that psilocybin adjuvant therapy appeared to treat alcoholism in a small group of patients. And a small research published year 2014 by Bogenschutz and several similar researchers have found that psilocybin combined with talk therapy can help people stop smoking. Last year, the team received the first federal grant for a psychedelic treatment in more than 50 years to extend that study to a three-year period, multi-page study.

Bogenschutz says the effectiveness of Psilocybin may be related to how it affects the brain. Research shows that psilocybin promotes neuroplasticity, allowing people to change the way they think and behave. The researchers also found that psilocybin helps depression treatment—Which often occurs in conjunction with a stimulant use disorder. One of the things that makes psilocybin such a promising treatment, says Bogenschutz, is that unlike drugs that have to be taken over and over again, psilocybin has a long-lasting and powerful effect after just a few doses. “It really suggests that we’re treating the underlying disorder, rather than just treating the symptoms,” says Bogenschutz.

Read more: How COVID-19 opens the door to a new era in psychedelic medicine

While the results of this study are encouraging, there is still a long way to go before psilocybin can be used to treat a large population. Fewer than 50 patients received psilocybin during clinical trials, meaning more studies must be conducted in a larger, more diverse population. Plus, the placebo used in the test, diphenhydramine – an antihistamine – is not a perfect substitute for psilocybin, as the hallucinogenic drug produces a unique hallucinogenic effect. Bogenschutz added that people should not be tested for psilocybin outside of a medical setting, because it can be more risky in an uncontrolled setting, in part because the patient experience can feel extreme. For example, some patients experience severe anxiety when under the influence of medication.

The study also did not fully include people who might benefit from psilocybin adjuvant therapy. Bogenschutz noted that on average, participants tended to have less intensity of drinking than people who typically participated in clinical trials for the condition. (According to Bogenschutz, that may be because the trial may have attracted people who were already dealing with their disorder.) treatment for alcoholism and not some other underlying condition.

However, Bogenschutz says it’s possible that patients with more severe illness could benefit more from treatment, especially if psilocybin can address the problems that not only cause alcohol use disorders but also mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and even other types of substance use disorders. “People with co-occurring disorders and addictions may be ideal candidates for this type of treatment, because they can benefit both disorders simultaneously,” he said. Their hope is that “this more flexible model of brain function allows people to change their thoughts and behaviors in ways that allow them to be happier, healthier.”

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