Researchers paired psilocybin, the hallucinogenic ingredient found in magic mushrooms, with psychotherapy to treat alcohol addiction in a new study.
The study included 93 patients with alcohol addiction who had no severe psychiatric illnesses and had not used psychedelics in the previous year. These individuals were placed into two groups: one received two doses of psilocybin, while the other received two doses of antihistamine placebo. In addition to medicine, all individuals had 12 weeks of psychotherapy; four sessions before the first medication dose, four between the first and second doses, and four during the month following treatment.
Both groups decreased their drinking from the start of the trial to week 32, although the psilocybin group improved more significantly. Heavy drinking decreased by around 83 percent in the psilocybin group, while it decreased by approximately 51 percent in the placebo group.
Eight months after their first dose, 48 percent of the psilocybin group had stopped drinking totally, compared to 24 percent of the placebo group.
Getting rid of cravings
“I quit drinking immediately after my first psilocybin experience.” “It worked that rapidly for me,” Jon Kostas, a psilocybin study participant, told reporters at a news conference on August 24. “This satisfied all of my cravings.”
“The therapeutic effects of psilocybin and therapy were ‘considerably larger’ than those reported for existing drugs used to treat alcohol use disorder, and it’s’remarkable’ that the effects persisted for months after treatment,” Dr. Michael Bogenschutz, lead study author and director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, said at a press conference. “If these effects hold up in future trials,” he says, “psilocybin could be a game changer in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.”
The psilocybin group experienced more moderate and short-term adverse effects, such as headache, nausea, and anxiety, than the placebo group. Aside from that, other substantial adverse events occurred outside of the clinic during the trial, including severe vomiting and psychiatric admissions. All of them, however, were observed in the placebo group.
The clinical trial was not entirely blind, which was the study’s only shortcoming. According to the researchers, “almost 95 percent of study participants knew whether they were receiving psilocybin or an antihistamine, making it difficult to disentangle pharmacological effects from the hope for great improvement.”
The study’s findings were published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.