BWhen John Costas was 25 years old, he was desperate to get over it alcoholism. He had started drinking at age 13 and had undergone various treatments–going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, taking pharmaceutical drugs, trying inpatient rehab–but nothing worked. Since 2015, however, when he participated in a clinical trial that combined talk therapy and psilocybin, anesthetic The active ingredient in the magic mushroom – Kostas stopped drinking. “I am forever grateful and indebted,” he says. “This saved my life.”
A randomized clinical trial published August 24 in the journal Gamma PsychiatryFound that in combination with psychotherapy, psilocybin has helped treat people’s alcohol use disorder. By analyzing a group of 93 patients with the condition – including Costas – for 32 weeks, researchers found that patients who received psilocybin in addition to psychotherapy (48 total) reduced their drinking by 83% within eight months of their first dose, compared to 51% among those who received a placebo. Nearly half of the people treated with psilocybin stopped drinking completely, compared to less than a quarter of those who received only the placebo.
“If these effects were replicated, I think this would really represent a breakthrough,” says Dr. Michael Bugenschutz, director of the Langone Psychiatric Center and lead author of the study. The effects appear to be continuing. And the effects are greater than those of any of the currently available treatments,” which include methods such as inpatient rehabilitation, talk therapy and medication.
More effective treatment of alcoholism can have profound effects at the community level. About 95,000 Americans Dies from alcohol related causes Every year, including alcoholic liver disease and car accidents US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. federation 2021 Analytics of Americans before the pandemic found that while about 5% of American adults — about 14.1 million people — had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, only 7% had received any treatment, and just under 3% were treated with medication. Even when people are receiving treatment, approved medications such as naltrexone have only been shown to contain Limited event.
The new research adds the strongest evidence yet that psilocybin may be a promising treatment for substance use disorders. Another primer study By Bogenschutz and other researchers in 2015, psilocybin-assisted therapy appeared to treat alcohol dependence in a small test group of patients. and small study Posted in 2014 By Bogenschutz and some of the same researchers found that psilocybin combined with talk therapy can help people quit smoking. Last year, the team received the first federal grant for anesthetic therapy in more than 50 years to expand that research for three years, Multisite study.
Bugenschutz says the effectiveness of psilocybin may be related to how it affects the brain. Research indicates that psilocybin enhances neuroplasticity, allowing people to change the way they think and act. Researchers also found that psilocybin helps depression treatment—It often occurs along with a substance use disorder. One of the things that makes psilocybin a promising treatment, Bugenschutz says, is that unlike medications that have to be taken over and over again, psilocybin has a strong, long-lasting effect after only a few doses. “It really indicates that we’re treating the underlying disorder, rather than just treating the symptoms,” says Bugenschutz.
While the results of this study are encouraging, there is still a long way to go before psilocybin can be used to treat a larger population. Fewer than 50 patients received psilocybin during the clinical trial, which means that more research needs to be done in a larger and diverse population. In addition, the placebo used in the trial, diphenhydramine – an antihistamine – is not an ideal substitute for psilocybin, because the drug produces unique hallucinogenic effects. Bogenschutz adds that people shouldn’t try psilocybin outside of clinical settings, because it can be more dangerous in an uncontrolled environment, in part because patients’ experiences can be extreme. For example, some patients feel very anxious when they are under the influence of medication.
The study also did not include the full range of people who could benefit from psilocybin-assisted therapy. On average, Bogenschutz noted, participants tended to have less heavy drinkers than people who typically join clinical trials for this condition. (According to Bogenschutz, this is likely because the trial may have drawn in people who were already coping with their disorder.) The researchers also deliberately excluded patients with other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, to ensure they could determine if psilocybin-assisted therapy would treat Alcoholism, not some other underlying condition.
However, Bugenschutz says it’s possible for patients with more severe illness to benefit from treatment, especially if psilocybin is able to treat problems that underlie alcohol use disorder, but also mental health issues such as depression and anxietyand even other types of substance use disorders. “People with addiction and co-occurring disorders may be an ideal combination for this type of treatment, because they may be able to benefit simultaneously from both disorders,” he says. They hope that “this more fluid pattern of brain function allows people to change their thoughts and behaviors in ways that allow them to be happier and healthier.”
More must-read stories from TIME