A new psychiatric study found that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, could serve as a promising treatment for alcohol use disorder in the future.
It seems counterintuitive to take one drug in place of another, but NYU scientists found that patients given psilocybin-assisted therapy reduced heavy drinking and alcoholism by 83 percent. That figure is compared with a control group which saw a 51 percent reduction after receiving antihistamine placebo. “Heavy drinking” was classified as four or more drinks in a day for women; or five-plus drinks in a day for men.
The double-blind study had 93 participants and took place over eight months. Close to half (48 percent) of those who had psilocybin stopped drinking altogether, twice as many as the 24 percent in the placebo group.
“Today’s study is a major breakthrough,” said Charles Marmar, chair of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. “Treating alcohol misuse is incredibly difficult, and the few existing medications have limited effectiveness long-term,” he added.
Boris Heifets, who studies psychedelics at Stanford and consults for companies trying to bring the drugs into the mainstream, agreed. “Alcoholism is hard to treat, so any success is noteworthy,” Heifets said.
Even some of the patients who participated in the trial are coming forward to publicly thank the new treatment for saving their lives (how often do you ever hear of that happening?).
According to the CDC, alcoholism routinely kills more than 140,000 Americans annually, so psilocybin could therefore treat one of the deadliest afflictions this country faces.
“It definitely affected my life and I’d say it saved my life,” said Jon Kostas, 32, who lives in New York. “My greatest expectations were to be able to manage my cravings. This surpassed that. It eliminated my cravings.”
The study consisted of 12 psychotherapy sessions and two daylong medication sessions. Obviously due to the nature of psychedelics, the participants could usually tell if they were given the psilocybin or the placebo. “Most people were able to guess what drug they were able to receive,” said Michael Bogenschutz, director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine and senior author on the study.
This research “blindspot,” as well as an inability to effectively study subgroups during the trial, have inspired the researchers to conceive newer, more detailed studies for the future.
Bogenschutz said NYU would “launch a multisite trial with more than 200 participants starting early next year” and, depending on the results, planned to “eventually submit the treatment to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.” NYU also filed a provisional patent application based around the work, he said.
“One of the reasons is to prevent it from being grabbed by other people who might use it to get a monopoly and make it harder for people to receive this treatment,” he also added. “This is about making this treatment available — if it’s shown to be effective — to as many people as possible to treat hard to treat disorders.”
Check out a book on psilocybin HERE.