I'm Sam and have strong interest in substance use and abuse and the psychology of behavioral problems.
There are a lot of different methods that you can use to help someone overcome a drug addiction. Among the most common types of rehabilitation you will find therapy, counseling, and group sessions.
However, it's not uncommon to hear about treating addiction with drugs – as ironic as this may sound. Many people who are addicted to illegal opioids like heroin are 'rehabilitated' by being prescribed hard opioids like methadone or Suboxone.
The fact of the matter is, with these types of drugs, the addiction isn't cured – it's just replaced with another addiction that's often more difficult to manage. However, a growing body of research is indicating that you can use another type of drug to treat addictions: psychedelics. In particular, psilocybin.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a compound that's commonly attributed to magic mushrooms. Technically, mushrooms contain psilocin, not psilocybin, and the body converts the psilocin and psilocybin. However, most people simply say that mushrooms contain psilocybin because this is a bit less of a mouthful.
Psilocin, or rather psilocybin, is a potent psychedelic compound. It causes a number of acute effects which can include:
- Visual distortions: colors may seem brighter, walls may seem to be 'breathing.' However, it's not common to have full-blown hallucinations on psilocybin. You may see things differently, but generally, you are seeing a distorted version of reality – not something that's not there.
- A change in mindset. People who are using psilocybin experience significant changes to their mindset and attitudes. Characteristics of the 'psychedelic mindset' include open-mindedness, humility, acceptance of the self and others, curiosity, compassion, and understanding.
- Physical sensations such as tingling, 'crawling,' or being wet or sticky. Some people experience stomach upset, though this may be from the plant matter generally consumed when people eat magic mushrooms. There is little data to suggest whether or not people would be nauseous if using pure psilocybin.
These effects are very interesting, but one might wonder how this could be useful for treating addiction. The key lies in the psychedelic mindset that psilocybin is known to induce.
How can Psilocybin Treat Addictions?
The idea of treating addictions with psychedelics is nothing new. Ibogaine treatment has been one of the most popular alternative methods for helping people overcome heroin addictions for many years.
Ibogaine treatment, however, is quite severe. Ibogaine 'trips' are nothing like mushroom trips.
Ibogaine works in very mysterious and complicated ways that are generally quite uncomfortable for the user. Many people report sensations of having their entire being 'deconstructed' or 'torn apart,' and then being 'rebuilt' in a manner that the addiction is no longer necessary.
Psilocybin is certainly known for helping to deconstruct the ego and help people observe themselves in a third-person, objective perspective. However, it's generally a lot more mild than something as intense as ibogaine.
As I've mentioned, the key here is the psychedelic mindset. It varies a lot compared to the average mindset that a person – specifically an addict – engages in.
When someone is seriously addicted to a drug, prescribed or otherwise, their lives begin to revolve around the drugs. They are unable to function without it and often plan their daily activities around their doses. If they are unable to get a dose, they will generally avoid their responsibilities or will be unable to accomplish them with regular efficacy.
This is a difficult situation to be in because you don't have a chance to look beyond your daily routine of getting your fix. It is literally required for you to get things done, and you don't often have time to worry about how you can stop using. Many addicts contemplate quitting – in fact, lots of them consider quitting everyday – but they are often so caught up in the struggle of obtaining drugs just to feel normal that they don't have time to plan their escape from addiction.
Drugs like psilocybin can be very useful because they help provide a person with an outside perspective. You might wonder how this is possible, and that's a tough question to answer because it varies for everyone. Psilocybin doesn't 'cure' addiction in the traditional sense, so I can't really tell you how it does it.
What I can tell you, however, is that psilocybin can facilitate a change of mindstate. It allows people to observe themselves, their reality, their relationships and their lives without looking through the lens of an addiction.
This can be difficult and uncomfortable for many addicts at first. Many addicts fall into habits – they wake up, get their dosage, and perform their daily routines. It becomes normal. However, oftentimes when addicts do psychedelics, they are confronted with the reality that their lifestyle is not healthy and not conducive to their wellbeing.
When this happens, a range of feelings can arise. Since the realization occurs within yourself, there is nobody to turn to and place blame on. This can be hard at first. However, as the psilocybin continues to affect the addict's mind, they come to realize that they are in an unhealthy position and that they have the power to change it.
Again, this will happen differently for everyone. Psilocybin may cause some people to recognize trauma that they were avoiding that led them to addiction. It may allow some people to recognize addictive habits and behaviors that they continue to engage in subconsciously. It may simply allow people to recognize the damage that their addiction is causing to themselves and to friends or family.
In this sense, psilocybin is very different than other methods of treating addiction because the results can vary so much.
One important benefit to note is that psilocybin is not addictive. Many of the treatments that are traditionally used to help people manage. People who use methadone to stop doing heroin, for example, often end up with an addiction that's twice as serious and many times harder to quit.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Sam Shepards