Magic Mushroom Hallucinogen Can Treat Alcohol Problems | Health, Medicine and Fitness

Dennis Thompson

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Jon Kostas, a lifelong New York resident, started bar-hopping when he was 13 years old. At the height of his alcoholism, he consumed up to 30 drinks a night.

Desperate for a way out, Kostas, 32, turned to a new therapy: psilocybin – the psychedelic compound found in so-called “magic mushrooms”.

“It definitely affected my life, and I like to say it saved my life,” said Kostas, who had his first psilocybin treatment session in March 2015.

He is not the only one to be helped. A new study suggests that psilocybin may be more effective in helping alcoholics quit alcohol than any current treatment, researchers say.

The study reported that two doses of the drug reduced alcohol consumption by an average of 83% in heavy drinkers when combined with psychotherapy.

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“The treatment effects observed in our study were significantly larger than those reported in meta-analyses of approved treatments for alcohol use disorders,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Bogenschutz. He is director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine in New York.

The results were published online August 24 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Naltrexone, the most widely prescribed drug for alcohol use disorder, has been shown to produce an approximately 5% reduction in heavy drinking days, compared to an almost 14% reduction observed with psilocybin in this study, Bogenschutz said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Moreover, the effects lasted over time. After 32 weeks, twice as many people treated with psilocybin had completely stopped drinking compared to people in a control group given an antihistamine placebo – 48% versus 24%.

“It’s remarkable that the effect of psilocybin treatment persisted for seven months after people received the last dose of the drug,” Bogenschutz said. “This suggests that psilocybin is treating the underlying alcohol dependence disorder rather than just treating the symptoms.”

This is the first published randomized trial to examine the effects of psilocybin in any addiction, and is larger than any previously published trial involving the psychedelic, Bogenschutz said.

Excessive alcohol consumption kills about 95,000 Americans each year, often due to excessive alcohol consumption or liver damage, the researchers said in briefing notes.

But Kostas said the psilocybin treatment “worked almost like an antibiotic for me, where I was sick with some disease or disorder.” He hasn’t wanted to try psilocybin since the treatment.

“I entered this clinical trial. I did psilocybin-assisted therapy and left,” Kostas said. “My biggest expectation for this was to be able to manage my cravings, and it exceeded that. It eliminated all of my cravings to the point where it cured my alcoholism.”

For the study, the researchers recruited men and women diagnosed with alcohol dependence. As a group, they averaged seven glasses a day when drinking; Heavy drinking is defined as five or more drinks a day for a man or four or more drinks a day for a woman, Bogenschutz said.

The team gave between one and three doses of psilocybin to 48 patients. 45 others received the placebo.

During these sessions, all participants stayed with a pair of therapists in a comfortable room in a hospital. They were encouraged to lie on a couch and wear glasses and headphones to play music.

All participants also received up to 12 psychotherapy sessions, which took place before, between and after drug treatments.

Subsequently, participants were asked to report their heavy drinking days. They also provided hair and fingernail samples to confirm they hadn’t been drinking.

The researchers said that most participants who received psilocybin experienced profound alterations in their perception, emotions, and self-esteem. These included experiences of great personal and spiritual significance.

Over the eight-month study period, the percentage of heavy drinking days was 10% for the psilocybin group and 24% for the placebo group.

The average number of drinks per day also fell for those who received psilocybin, from more than five at the start to around one during follow-up.

About 83% of patients on psilocybin said they had reduced their alcohol consumption at the end of the study, compared to 51% of the placebo group.

Researchers aren’t sure why psilocybin might help a person beat their drinking habit. Psilocybin is known to interact with many types of brain receptors, each of which can have an effect on a person’s desire to drink, Bogenschutz said.

Additionally, psilocybin is known to “reset” the brain, “enhancing the brain’s ability to change and adapt,” he said.

“We can hypothesize that there is increased potential for change, and that in the context of therapy and the desire for change and active efforts to change – to stop drinking, for example – psilocybin may improve” a person’s chances of adaptation and growth. , Bogenschutz said.

The research team plans to follow this up with a larger trial involving multiple hospitals. The trial will be sponsored by B.More Inc., a non-profit psilocybin research company.

The Heffter Research Institute has more information on addiction therapy using psilocybin.

SOURCES: Michael Bogenschutz, MD, director, NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, New York; Jon Kostas, study participant, New York; NYU Langone press briefing, August 24, 2022; JAMA PsychiatryAugust 24, 2022, online