Dr. Stephen Ross, Director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship, and other NYU investigators are conducting clinical research trials using psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment of alcohol use disorders. Ross says, “By inducing a spiritual awakening, it may shift the person who’s addicted from this path they’re on which is very dark and going toward destruction… towards a different path and a connection back into their lives and developmental tracks. This shift we want to feed into psychotherapy to help change their motivation to enter sobriety and recovery.”
Study participants who decreased their drinking after psilocybin therapy in a clinical trial said, “They believed that the psychedelic helped them to change their life values or priorities; that it changed their perspective on the future, such that they began valuing long-term benefits more; that it changed their own opinion of their ability to abstain; and that it reframed the task of quitting as a spiritual endeavor.”
Groundbreaking psychedelic research featured on 60 Minutes. Investigators at Johns Hopkins University talk about psilocybin therapy and study participants describe how it helped them overcome nicotine addictions or improve depression symptoms. They have many studies planned for the new Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at JHU. Michael Pollan shares his experience with psychedelics and how these treatments can impact mental health.
The profound mystical experiences evoked by psilocybin can help people see the real reasons why they are smoking and how to overcome lifelong addictions. Unlike traditional approaches of reducing symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, psilocybin in the context of behavioral therapy gets at the root cause of what is causing the addiction. Under psilocybin, areas in the brain that normally don’t talk to each other begin to cross talk, allowing for new insights to emerge and a shift in perspective around harmful habits.
The first study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol use disorders is taking place in Bristol, UK. After two MDMA sessions during an 8-week course of therapy, two patients were not drinking at all and two patients had a single episode of drinking a low amount of alcohol. All had improvements in quality of life, mindfulness, self-compassion, depression and anxiety symptoms. Dr. Ben Sessa, an addiction psychiatrist leading the study, commented, “We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy. Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction.”
Derived from the roots of a plant from West Africa, ibogaine is sought after for its anti-addictive properties. This strong psychoactive substance has helped people kick decade-long opioid dependence by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. However, without proper screening and oversight, ibogaine use has been associated with life-threatening heart complications and other health risks. Ibogaine is currently banned in the USA, but drug development companies are now working to start clinical trials.
An emergency room doctor visits an ibogaine clinic in Mexico to better understand how this substance can interrupt opioid addictions. One of the patients described his experience as, “The benefit of ibogaine is that it gets you through withdrawal so you can get on with the work of sobriety. Those next steps, he said, were even more important.”
Recent advancements in clinical research of psychedelic substances are leading the way for new investigations for treatment of substance use disorders. Currently there are phase 2 clinical trials underway or planned to give psilocybin to people with alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine use disorders. Learn more about study enrollment and how to contact study sites in this article that lists current and planned psychedelic clinical research trials world-wide.
Psychedelic substances are in various phases of clinical research. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD is currently in phase 3 trials, the last stage of testing before possibly becoming an FDA-approved medication. Studies are ongoing investigating the use of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder. The FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and psilocybin for treatment resistant depression and major depressive disorder. In phase 2 studies, both have demonstrated substantial improvement over currently available treatments for these life-threatening conditions. Clinical trials are actively recruiting participants for these studies.
A grassroots movement has gained momentum after success in Denver and Oakland. Decriminalize Nature has provided a template for others to submit similar resolutions in their cities and is working with allied groups to help them accomplish decriminalization in their local areas. Other cities, including Portland, Santa Cruz, Chicago, Berkeley, Dallas and others, have filed or plan to advance decriminalization measures at the city level.
In May 2019, Denver became the first city to decriminalize hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms. A city ordinance was voted in to “deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible” criminal penalties imposed by the City of Denver “for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms.” These so called ‘magic mushrooms’ are still not legal in Denver or any other USA city, but the ordinance effectively “prohibits the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties.”
The California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative is a state measure aimed to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in the November 2020 election. But first a 30 day public comment period must occur before the signature collection process begins where 625,000 signatures must be collected within 180 days to get this on the ballot for the 2020 election. The latest version of the initiative includes, “advances cognitive liberty and implements a comprehensive, statewide scheme authorizing and regulating the cultivation, processing and distribution of Psilocybin Mushrooms and the chemical compounds contained therein for personal, spiritual, religious, dietary, therapeutic, and medical use.”
The use of psychedelics in clinical practices is quite different than traditional medications prescribed for mental health conditions. Rather than a daily dose of a medication, psychedelic-assisted therapies include preparatory sessions, the psychedelic experience with therapy, and integrative sessions after. With these new paradigms emerging, so is the call for long-term supportive community programs. “Psychedelics are not a shortcut to a simple fix. They can show us the way forward, but we need to put in the work before and after the experience. And we need to do that work communally.” More connectedness will foster larger individual and collective healing.
Smoking was “one of my oldest, dearest friends,” she said of her habit. “To not have that relationship was very, very scary.” Researchers at Johns Hopkins University guide a 40 year smoker through a psilocybin journey in a clinical trial for nicotine dependence. A year-and-a-half later, she remains smoke-free. “I think something in my brain got turned off,” she says.
A cultural integration of psychedelics is occurring in parallel to regulated psychedelic drug development programs. Many people are looking to underground guides and therapists to experience psychedelics outside of sanctioned research trials. As the therapeutic claims of psychedelics widen, so does the need for education around harm reduction and best practices for psychedelic explorers. The use of psychedelics is evolving, and while many enthusiastically embrace these developments, caution is warranted until more data is collected around safety and application of these powerful tools.
The power of addiction and the addiction of power: Gabor Maté at TEDxRio+20
Canadian physician Gabor Maté is a specialist in terminal illnesses, chemical dependents, and HIV positive patients. Dr. Maté is a renowned author of books and columnist known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, chronic illness and parental relations. His theme at TEDxRio+20 was addiction — from drugs to power. From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power — nothing escapes. And he risks a generic and generous prescription: “Find your nature and be nice to yourself.”
Could psychedelics help us heal from trauma and mental illnesses? Researcher Rick Doblin has spent the past three decades investigating this question, and the results are promising. In this fascinating dive into the science of psychedelics, he explains how drugs like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA affect your brain — and shows how, when paired with psychotherapy, they could change the way we treat PTSD, depression, substance abuse and more.
What do Tourette syndrome, heroin addiction and social media obsession all have in common? They converge in an area of the brain called the striatum, says neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman — and this critical discovery could reshape our understanding of the opioid crisis. Sharing insights from her research, Wurzman shows how social isolation contributes to relapse and overdose rates and reveals how meaningful human connection could offer a potentially powerful source of recovery.
What really causes addiction — to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do — and if there might be a better way. As he shares in this deeply personal talk, his questions took him around the world, and unearthed some surprising and hopeful ways of thinking about an age-old problem.
Johns Hopkins’ researcher Dr. Matthew Johnson presents data from psilocybin clinical trials at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, CA. Psilocybin combined with therapy is being investigated for treating dependence of nicotine, alcohol, and opioids. The results from these pilot studies show this novel approach can shift people’s perspectives around their substance use and help them harness motivation to reduce harmful patterns.
Is there a role for psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin in healthcare, and can they uncover things about our consciousness? Author Michael Pollan and psychedelic researcher Dr. Robin Carhart-Harriss explore the therapeutic value of mind expansive experiences at the Royal Institution.
The profound mystical experiences encountered during psilocybin sessions can lead to lasting positive changes in mental health. Participants in psilocybin clinical trials talk about how they overcome nicotine and alcohol dependence. Six months after treatment, 80% of fifteen smokers were abstinent from nicotine. Alcohol craving and the number of drinking days were reduced weeks after one to two psilocybin sessions and motivational therapy. New trials are underway to research psilocybin in a larger number of people seeking treatment for addictions.
Sarah talks about her challenging experiences during psilocybin therapy when she acknowledges the destructive impact of her uncontrolled drinking. She confronts the emotional pain and sees how to work through things in order to become a more present parent. By reconnecting with her truth, she learns how to accept and move on to lead a healthier life. Ten months after her two psilocybin sessions, Sarah is a more playful mom and is forever grateful for the blessings in her life.
This TEDx talk explores the practice of MDMA Psychotherapy, illustrated with the life-story of a fictional typical patient. We owe it to this population of vulnerable, untreated patients with unremitting mental disorders due to psychological trauma, to explore MDMA Therapy as potential new treatment for the future of psychiatric medicine.