Magic mushrooms are still illegal in the United States for recreational use, but researchers have tested psilocybin as a treatment for various mental illnesses.
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New research reveals that the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, in combination with talk therapy, could be a promising treatment for people with alcohol addiction.
In a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, scientists found that patients who took this drug, called psilocybin, had an 83 percent drop in binge drinking, while those who took a placebo experienced a 51 percent drop. .
“These are exciting results,” explains Dr. Michael Bogenschutz, principal investigator of the study and director of New York University’s Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times. “Alcohol use disorder is a serious public health problem, and the effects of currently available treatments and medications tend to be small.”
Nearly 15 million people age 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder, the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found. Each year, more than 140,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Despite this, the country has approved only three conventional drugs to treat alcohol use disorder, writes Carla K. Johnson for the Associated Press, and no new drugs have been approved in the past 20 years.
The dosing room where patients received their drug treatment
NYU Langone Health
In the new study, 93 patients participated in two medication sessions separated by four weeks. Each participant received either psilocybin or a placebo without being told which they received. During their sessions, they were “encouraged to lie on a sofa with shades and headphones that provided a standardized playlist of music,” the authors write. Patients also had 12 sessions of psychotherapy: four before receiving any medication, four between treatments, and four after both doses.
About half of those who received psilocybin stopped drinking completely eight months after their first dose, while about 24 percent of the placebo group stopped drinking.
“Alcoholism is difficult to treat, so any success is noteworthy,” Boris Heifets, who studies psychedelics at Stanford and was not involved in the research, told STAT News’ Olivia Goldhill.
Scientists don’t know exactly how psilocybin affects the brain, but some say it can help increase connections or change the way the brain is organized, allowing users to find new ways to deal with their illness, according to the Times.
Participant Jon Kostas says the treatment saved his life.
NYU Langone Health
One participant, Mary Beth Orr, tells the AP that before the study, she would have five or six drinks each night and more on the weekends. After treatment, he stopped drinking completely for two years, and now has an occasional glass of wine. And it credits psilocybin more than therapy, according to the publication.
“It made alcohol irrelevant and uninteresting to me,” Orr tells the AP. “I am attached to my children and loved ones in a way that only prevents the desire to be alone with alcohol.”
However, the research had one major limitation: due to the remarkable effects of psychedelics, most participants were able to guess which treatment they received. Orr reported flying over landscapes, seeing his late father and telepathically merging with historical figures, according to the AP.
Next year, researchers will begin a multisite trial with more than 200 participants, the largest study of psilocybin treatment for alcohol use disorder to date, the Times writes. Based on the results of the trial, they hope to seek Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment, which has so far shown promise.
“It definitely affected my life, and I would say it saved my life,” study participant Jon Kostas tells STAT. “My high expectations were to be able to manage my cravings. This exceeded that. It took away my cravings.”
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Source: Psychedelic ingredient ‘Magic Mushroom’ could help treat alcohol addiction | Smart news