Psilocybin could be a therapeutic breakthrough for addiction

BILLIONo uninitialized psilocybin – the substance that gives ‘magic mushrooms’ their hallucinogenic qualities – may be dismissed as a recreational drug. Like many others illusion, it is banned by the US government as a Schedule 1 substance, which means it is thought to have a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use. For many medical science researchers, however, psilocybin is more than that: a promising treatment for a wide range of health problems. In particular, experts increasingly see this chemical as a potentially effective, low-risk tool to help patients break their dependence on other substances. Given that more than 100,000 people died after opioid overdose and other drugs in the U.S. last year, arguably the need to find new, effective treatments for substance use disorders.

Research supporting the use of psilocybin in this setting has been growing for some time. One of the most recent studies, published in Scientific reports on April 7, looked at data from 214,505 US adults on the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2015 to 2019, and found an association between drug use and health. past use of psilocybin — any time in life — and reduce your risk opioid use disorder. The researchers looked at 11 criteria scientists use to diagnose opioid use disorder (for example, spending a lot of time buying and using drugs) and found that psilocybin was used in The past is significantly correlated with the falling odds of the seven products on the list, and with slightly lower odds than the other two.

There is one big caveat with this study: because it was looking at correlations, it did not find any solid evidence that using psilocybin itself reduces the risk of opioid use disorder. Grant Jones, a graduate researcher at Harvard, said: “While the researchers controlled for things like education level, annual household income and age, there could be social characteristics. Associations or individuals make psilocybin users different from those who do not decide to use the drug, said Grant Jones, a graduate researcher at Harvard. The university is a co-author of the study. “There may be different psychological profiles that make [some people] more immune to developing substance use disorders; we don’t know,” Jones said.

However, the study adds to growing evidence that psilocybin is worth investigating as a treatment for stimulant use disorder. For example, a 2017 Johns Hopkins University pilot study, co-authored by Albert Garcia-Romeu, found that the majority of 15 participants were able to quit smoking for at least 16 months after receiving it. Okay two to three moderate to high doses of psilocybin. An analogy Research evidence on alcohol use disorder in 2015, led by Michael Bogenschutz, professor of psychiatry at the Grossman School of New York University, found that abstinence in addicts increased significantly after psilocybin use. Observational studies, including those reported by Jones and Additional research from Garcia-Romeuhave also found that psilocybin is associated with a reduced risk of using substances such as cocaine, marijuana, and opioids.

Read more: Inside Ibogaine, one of the most promising and dangerous hallucinogens for addiction

Additional research has shown another potential therapeutic use for psilocybin: to relieve depression. For example, a small randomized clinical trial published year JAMA in 2020 found that psilocybin adjuvant therapy rapidly reduced symptoms of major depressive symptoms and that these effects remained statistically significant at least four weeks later. Another study, published this year in Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that in a small group of depressed participants who received two doses of psilocybin with supportive therapy, 75% still had some response to the treatment and 58% experienced complete remission of their depression. . In another study co-authored by Jones, published earlier this year in Journal of Psychopharmacology, he and his colleague Matthew K. Nock looked at NSDUH data, and found that psilocybin use was associated with a reduced risk of major depressive episodes.

Even so, Jones admits that there is still a lot to learn about hallucinations. “What has always struck me about psychedelic research is that despite so much excitement and so much attention, and so much financial support pouring into the space, the actual content of the literature is still very sparse. chopping board,” Jones said. “I think we’re pushing the boundaries of the benefits of staying healthy.”

Why can psilocybin help with addiction?

Several clinical trials focusing on psychiatric conditions such as depression have shown that psilocybin seems to Elevate the patient’s mood, even weeks after taking the drug. Exactly how is still uncertain, but researchers have a few ideas. For example, psilocybin seems to increase the brain’s neural plasticity — the ability for neural networks to change and roll back. In a published study April 11, year Natural MedicineFor example, researchers found that psilocybin helped build more connections between different parts of the brain, while reducing interactions between brain regions involved in depression — and in terms of results, The use of psilocybin seems to reduce the patient’s depressive symptoms. In both human and animal studies, psilocybin seems to make it easier to break out of a habit and become more adaptive, Bogenschutz says. “It increases the brain’s ability to change, and so thinking and behavior change as well.”

Outside, evidence from animal tests shows the effects of psilocybin on mental health, possibly related in part to its ability to reduce inflammation – an immune response in the body’s tissues to hazards ranging from stress to injury physical activity, which researchers have found is linked to mental disorders such as depression.

Biological mechanisms aren’t the only reason scientists are excited about psilocybin and other types of hallucinogens — there’s also the psychological experience of taking the drug. “The kinds of experiences people often have with these drugs can be very meaningful, profound, and sometimes spiritual in nature,” says Garcia-Romeu. “When you ask them, those experiences are the reason they’re making better choices, and they’re making these behavioral changes.”

The unique advantages of psilocybin

The researchers point to two characteristics that make psilocybin a particularly attractive potential treatment for cancer. mental health condition. First, although it can cause some dangerous side effects if not used in a controlled environment, it tends not to be addictive. Second, psilocybin can be long-acting, meaning people will only have to take it intermittently, reducing their risk of any side effects. “That’s a huge safety advantage… compared to taking a pill a day, and that side effect stays with you for months, possibly,” said Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychedelics. years, depending on how long you take the drug.” degree at Johns Hopkins University.

In many ways, research into the potential of psilocybin is still just beginning. Almost all psychedelic research in the US came to an abrupt halt after the US increased regulation of pharmaceutical research in the 1960s and criminalized the manufacture and possession of psilocybin and other hallucinogens. Garcia-Romeu said scientists are still “reopening the books” on hallucinations to make up for decades of stalled research. At this time, there are only a handful of published clinical trials of psilocybin as a treatment for any type of substance use disorder, and many of these trials only included a very small number of clinical trials. Participants.

But the resulting evidence has accumulated and increasingly scientific attention has been drawn to the drug’s capabilities — including, last fall, the first federal funding to study a method. psychedelic treatment for 50 years, for a double-blind randomized trial consider psilocybin as a smoking cessation tool. In the words of Bogenschutz, science has reached “the first starting point when there is now sufficient evidence [that] It’s really hard not to appreciate the potential of hallucinations.”

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

Addiction science scientists are anxiously awaiting the results of this and other growing research into the potential of psychedelics in their field. Substance use disorders are chronically treated, and very few highly effective treatment options are available. For example, only a small number of Americans have alcohol use disorder – the most common substance use disorder in the USTreated; A nationwide study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis gives the rate alcoholics get the care they need from 2015-2019 only about 6%.

In Bogenschutz’s view, the psychology and physiology underlying addiction to any given substance have a lot in common with predisposition to addiction to other such dependences. And he believes that’s what makes psychedelics so promising as a treatment for substance abuse — it seems, he says, a panacea for addiction. “There’s something interesting about the treatment of addiction with psychedelics, the way in which the mechanisms by which we expect it work, are not really specific to any particular addiction,” he said. how,” he said. “[These drugs] could represent a breakthrough in treatment for alcohol use disorders, other addictions, mood and anxiety disorders — a wide range of conditions. ”

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