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Psilocybin to Treat Addiction

Did you know the hallucinogen psilocybin has gained popularity because of its potential to improve the lives of those suffering from addictions, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions? This psychedelic compound found naturally in certain mushrooms can be useful for treatment.

But what sorts of problems can psilocybin treat, and what does it do exactly? Scientists are still trying to uncover its mysteries, with many prestigious organizations actively studying psilocybin to analyze its potential therapeutic benefits.

Researchers already believe that psychedelic medicine can help patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Recent psychedelic research suggests that psilocybin may also successfully treat alcohol addiction and even facilitate smoking cessation.

Psilocybin to Treat Addiction

Causes of Drug Addiction

Drug abuse is defined as using drugs, such as alcohol or illegal substances, despite the harmful consequences of doing so. There are many types of life-threatening drug abuse, including alcohol dependence, prescription drug abuse, recreational drug abuse, and substance abuse disorder. Some people develop an addiction to one type of drug.

The causes of drug addiction differ for each individual. However, some general causes contribute to drug addiction. These include genetics, environment, psychological factors, trauma, and lack of social support.

Many people start using illegal substances because they think they're a way to deal with stress. Unfortunately, stressful events can trigger drug abuse, especially among adolescents. Peer pressure and negative life experiences can also lead to drug abuse.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. There are numerous varieties of addictive substances. The most common include alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, heroin, prescription painkillers, and marijuana.

Symptoms of drug addiction and substance use disorders vary depending on what type of substance is being abused. For example, some people experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, restlessness, and cravings.

Others develop tolerance to the effects of the drug over time. The person must take greater drug doses to feel the same impact.

In addition, some people become physically dependent on the substance. Physical dependence occurs when the body gets accustomed to certain chemicals from the brain. When those chemicals stop flowing into the brain, it causes withdrawal symptoms.

What Are Psychedelics Used to Treat?

The term "psychedelic" refers to substances that produce altered states of consciousness, such as hallucinations, visions, and mystical experiences. There are a variety of psychedelic drugs, including LSD, ayahuasca, DMT, and, of course, psilocybin mushrooms.

Psilocybin treatment can address anxiety, depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and other mental health problems. As reported by the New York Times, research suggests that psilocybin, in particular, may help reduce the desire to use addictive substances.

Researchers hypothesize that psilocybin decreases cravings for cigarettes and alcohol and may help patients overcome addictions to opiates, including heroin and morphine. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider psychedelics to be medicine and, therefore, does not approve them for medical use.

But many people now realize there are other ways to treat mental illness than simply using medication. So there's a growing interest in psychedelic therapy among researchers, doctors, and patients, although it's still in its infancy, including psilocybin-assisted therapy.

What Is Psilocybin Therapy?

In the 1960s, scientists discovered that psychedelic drugs could trigger hallucinations in people without causing harm. The main difference between psychedelic therapy and recreational use is that the patient takes the drug under medical supervision. In some instances, doctors prescribe the drug to patients who want to explore their inner selves.

Two main types of psychedelic therapy used to treat addictions are guided and drug-assisted therapy. Clinical trials of psilocybin therapy are currently happening throughout Europe and North America with two main components: behavioral therapy and taking the drug.

What a Psilocybin Therapy Session Looks Like?

Psilocybin therapy is a relatively new psychedelic treatment for depression, anxiety, and addiction. During this therapy, a patient goes on a psychedelic journey with a trained therapist's guidance.

At the start of the psychotherapy session, patients take a small dose of psilocybin. Then, they lie down and listen to music or watch videos while the drug takes effect. Afterward, patients often describe their psychedelic experience as "traveling to another world."

There are many ways to deliver psilocybin therapy, including oral ingestion, vaporization, sublingual administration, and intravenous injection. Some people prefer one method over others, but experts have yet to have a consensus about how best to use it.

For example, some believe that taking psilocybin orally allows patients to understand better what they are experiencing. Others argue that sublingual delivery provides faster onset times. Still, others say that vaporizing the drug makes it easier to control dosage levels.

How Does Psilocybin Affect an Addict’s Brain?

Psilocybin-assisted treatment outcomes from trials are still being recorded, and psychedelics generally are still being studied. We don't fully understand how they work. And so far, scientists and healthcare professionals have yet to pinpoint exactly how they produce their therapeutic effects.

However, they do seem to interact with specific receptors in the brain. Researchers believe the positive effects of psilocybin are due to changes in brain activity, particularly in the claustrum, as evidenced by psychedelic studies from Johns Hopkins University. In particular, the areas responsible for processing emotions seem less active.

New research suggests that psilocybin might be able to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety in patients by altering the way we process negative thoughts. Additionally, psilocybin mushrooms contain compounds called tryptamines. They're similar to serotonin, a hormone found in our brains. It, too, plays a part in improving mood and reducing depression symptoms.

Psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms may give users meaningful experiences and provoke profound insights into their minds and selves. Moreover, these insights could lead to lasting changes in behavior. This same openness of mind makes it easier to break old patterns and adapt to new situations, which leads to better coping skills and less emotional distress.

For example, psilocybin has helped study participants cope with cravings and negative thoughts associated with withdrawal symptoms. However, there are still many unknowns. For example, it's unclear whether psilocybin works best for certain types of addiction or whether it's most effective for long-term use. There are also concerns over safety, potential abuse, and possible side effects.

Overall, though, research has indicated that psilocybin usually has a profoundly positive effect on patients’ well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

More than 40% of those who enter addiction treatment programs don't complete them.

The addictive cycle begins with the initial use of drugs or alcohol. That leads to the second level: tolerance. Users at this level require larger drug doses to get the same effect. With continued use, people develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.

And finally, there is physical dependence, in which the body comes to depend on the substance. This dependency may be called addiction, drug use disorder, or alcohol use disorder.

According to some studies, Some people are born with a genetic predisposition toward experiencing a drug problem. This includes having certain genes that may increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs.

For example, those with a gene called DRD2R7R2A1 are more likely to develop a drug problem. Other genes that affect drug addiction include COMT, MAOA, and OPRM1.

Psychedelic substances like LSD, magic mushrooms, and peyote are still illegal in most countries around the world. Some exceptions include Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Jamaica, and several Latin American countries.

There is a growing list of US states where psychedelic drugs have been decriminalized.