Psychedelics For Addiction Being Studied Outside Of The Lab

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by Gonzo Nieto

on October 2, 2015

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are conducting an anonymous online survey to investigate the relationship between psychedelic use and addiction.

The study, led by Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., is seeking participants who are at least 18 years of age that speak English fluently, have taken a psychedelic outside of a research setting, and have experienced a reduction in addictive behavior with regards to alcohol, opioids, stimulants, or cannabis following a psychedelic experience. For more info on the inclusion criteria or to participate in the survey, click here.

Photo: Johns Hopkins. Via: Lizardraley99 | Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

Photo: Johns Hopkins. Via: Lizardraley99 | Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

Investigating psychedelic use outside of a research setting, as is being done in this survey, is critical. Studies carried out in a clinical research setting greatly contribute to our knowledge of how psychedelics can be used in the context of therapy, but their results may not be as generalizable to those in the general population who are using psychedelics on their own or with peers.

The work Johnson and his research team are doing is helping to generate much needed data on this population. They have  previously conducted similar online studies to characterize the effects of psychedelic use in non-research settings: one evaluating positive and challenging psychedelic experiences, and the other looking at the relationship between psychedelic use and reduction or cessation of cigarette smoking.

This is one in a series of recent studies looking at how psychedelics could help people who are struggling with drug dependence. Dr. Johnson was also lead author of a 2014 pilot study which looked at using psilocybin, the active compound in ‘magic’ mushrooms, within a smoking cessation program. Six months after the program, 12 out of 15 participants (80%) remained abstinent — a significantly greater proportion than one might expect from other common smoking cessation therapies, which have reported success rates of around 35%. Following the pilot study, the Johns Hopkins research team is continuing the investigation with more participants.

EmmaSofia is a non-profit organization working to increase access to quality-controlled MDMA and psychedelics, for medical, scientific, and other legal purposes.

EmmaSofia is a non-profit organization working to increase access to quality-controlled MDMA and psychedelics, for medical, scientific, and other legal purposes.

The question of whether psychedelics could be used to treat addiction was actively explored in the 1950s and ‘60s, with several studies exploring treatment of alcoholism with LSD. Drawing conclusive results from this body of work remains difficult, as the methodology employed by many researchers does not meet today’s standards. However, in 2012 EmmaSofia founders Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen published a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that had used LSD to treat alcoholism. In their article, they reported that a single dose of LSD was associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse lasting up to six months.

Lastly, research at the University of New Mexico, supported by the Heffter Institute, is currently exploring treating alcoholism with psilocybin. While results have not yet been published, the research team has released a video interview with Sarah, a participant from that study. Watch the video in the player below.