I'm Sam and have strong interest in substance use and abuse and the psychology of behavioral problems.
One might think that it’s strange to suggest treating alcoholism with another drug, especially one that’s so often associated with the hippie movement and recreational usage.
However, modern research is showing us that psilocybin can be one of the most effective drugs for treating a wide variety of mental health problems. One of the things that it’s indicated to help with is alcoholism and addiction in general, which is one of the most notorious and difficult ailments to treat.
Today we’re going to talk about psilocybin and explain how it can be useful in the treatment of addiction.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin is the main compound that provides the effects of magic mushrooms. It’s a hallucinogenic compound that causes a number of effects. It’s most commonly known for causing:
- Visual distortions: bright colors, sharp imagery, and things like ‘breathing walls’
- Changes to mentality: more open-mindedness, improved creativity, increased mood, more curiosity and an inclination towards the spiritual
- Physical sensations that can be quite nice (feelings of internal warmth) or rather unpleasant (crawling skin)
However, that’s not all that psilocybin can be used for. In fact, modern research is suggesting that psilocybin can be equally as useful for treating addiction and alcoholism as it can be for recreational use.
Alcoholism is one of the most common diseases on the face of the planet. There are more than 140 million people around the world currently suffering from alcoholism, and the problem causes more than 80,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone.
About 6% of all deaths worldwide can be attributed to alcohol, which makes it one of the leading causes of death across the globe.
Alcoholism is a tricky problem because alcohol is so readily available. Many people underestimate the power of alcoholism because the substance is so easy to find. They assume that just because it’s legal, it must be relatively safe.
The fact that advertisements and promotions for alcohol are ubiquitous doesn’t make this any easier. Unfortunately, there are far fewer advertisements and promotions about the downsides of alcohol or the dangers of addiction.
There are a number of treatments for alcoholism, many of which involve group therapy (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, a religion-based group session that’s been quite successful at helping thousands replace alcoholism with spirituality) or rehabilitation, which often includes counselling and one-on-one therapy.
However, recent studies have indicated that there may be another alternative for people struggling with alcoholism: psilocybin.
How Can Psilocybin Help Treat Alcoholism?
There are a number of ways that psilocybin can be useful for treating alcoholism. One study that was done recently involved Dr. Rick Strassman, the author of a popular book on psychedelics and their potential applications entitled DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
The study’s intention was to provide a wider range of information on the benefits of psilocybin for medicinal purposes. This would, in turn, allow other scientists to begin doing their own research on the compound.
There have been a number of studies done on psilocybin ability to treat various problems, but this was the first done to specifically evaluate how it can help treat alcoholism.
The study was done on only 10 people. They were given 4 weeks of therapy prior to the usage of psilocybin in which they were given one-on-one therapy sessions. These therapy sessions did not have a huge effect on the amount of drinking that the subjects were doing.
However, once the patients were administered psilocybin, there was a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol that they were drinking. These results lasted for more than 9 months when the researchers followed up with the subjects.
It was also revealed that there was a direct relation between the amount of psilocybin consumed and the amount of improvement in the patients’ level of alcohol consumption. Heavier doses resulted in more improvements - greater reductions in cravings and negative symptoms of alcoholism.
Psilocybin for Treating Addiction
It has been known for some time that psilocybin can be useful for treating addiction. Psychedelics have been used for some time to help battle more serious addictions. Iboga, for example, is an incredibly powerful psychedelic that is used to help people overcome heroin addiction.
Psychedelics like psilocybin are very useful because they broaden an individual’s perspective. They allow them the chance to self-reflect and recognize how and why their problems are caused by themselves.
You’ll note that the previous study didn’t offer much of an explanation as to a biological mechanism behind the results. This is because psilocybin causes experiences that are incredibly subjective. While two separate patients may both experience a decrease in the amount of alcohol that they’re drinking, the reasons and the methods that they go about doing this could vary quite a bit.
Psilocybin has been proven to be useful for helping to fight addictions to tobacco and drugs as well as alcohol. Studies have revealed that smokers who used psilocybin before attempting to quit were more than twice as likely to abstain from cigarettes than those who used regular anti-smoking medication.
Psilocybin can also be useful for helping people identify and deal with the underlying causes of addiction. Many addicts have suffered from some type of trauma in their past that has not been resolved. To cover up the pain - though they might not realize that this is what they’re doing - many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Psilocybin has been proven to be useful for people suffering from PTSD, and in this sense, it can also be considered useful for helping people overcome problems related to trauma and addiction.
Back to Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses
Psychedelics were initially intended to be powerful medicinal and therapeutic compounds. LSD, when it was developed, underwent impressive evaluations for its ability to help people overcome mental health problems. Unfortunately it was made illegal soon after.
Nowadays, we are beginning to see more and more studies that indicate that these types of drugs are incredibly useful for helping people manage their mental health. The future of psychedelic research is promising, and we can only hope that these compounds become more available for medicinal use.
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