Shrooms to help you quit smoking?

From the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction“:

Despite suggestive early findings on the therapeutic use of hallucinogens in the treatment of substance use disorders, rigorous follow-up has not been conducted. To determine the safety and feasibility of psilocybin as an adjunct to tobacco smoking cessation treatment we conducted an open-label pilot study administering moderate (20 mg/70 kg) and high (30 mg/70 kg) doses of psilocybin within a structured 15-week smoking cessation treatment protocol. Participants were 15 psychiatrically healthy nicotine-dependent smokers (10 males; mean age of 51 years), with a mean of six previous lifetime quit attempts, and smoking a mean of 19 cigarettes per day for a mean of 31 years at intake.

The gist of this study was that they gathered 15 otherwise healthly (including mental health) smokers who had all tried and failed to quit smoking in the past. They were all given a moderate dose of psilocybin on their intended quit date. Later, they were given a high dose of psilocybin. Here:

After informing subjects about what their experience with the drug might be like, the first dose of psilocybin was administered by pill the day each participant planned to quit smoking. Two subsequent sessions, with higher doses of the mind-altering drug, were held two weeks and eight weeks later.

During each psilocybin session, which lasted six to seven hours, participants were closely monitored by two members of the research team in a comfortable, homelike setting. Most of the time, participants wore eyeshades and earphones that played music, and they were encouraged to relax and focus on their inner experiences.

I was a skeptical as many of you likely are right about now. I mean, how was this even legal? I couldn’t help but snicker when one of the authors said, “When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.” But the results were somewhat amazing. Twelve of the fifteen, or 80% of participants, reported abstinence at 6 months. That’s an insanely large quit rate.

It’s a small study. It was open label, and it had no controls. It involves using an abused drug to treat dependence on another. But it’s really hard to quit smoking. 80% at 6 months? Someone better do some follow-up work.


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