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Can Psychedelic Drug Therapy Help Treat Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction develops when an individual develops a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol, leading to cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance. It can affect an individual’s health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life.

Navigation: Psychedelic Drug Therapy: Can it Help Treat Alcohol Addiction?, Psilocybin Treatment: What is Psilocybin?, Are Psychedelic Drugs Dangerous?, What are Alternative Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder?, How is Alcohol Dependence and Addiction Normally Treated?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcohol addiction or alcoholism, is a chronic and progressive disorder characterized by an individual’s compulsive and uncontrollable consumption of alcohol despite negative consequences, such as physical, mental, social, or legal problems.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption kills around 95,000 Americans each year. These deaths are often caused by binge drinking or liver disease.

Additionally, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2019, approximately 14.5 million adults (aged 18 and older) in the United States had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the past year. This includes 9.3 million men and 5.2 million women. Meanwhile, an estimated 401,000 adolescents (aged 12-17) had AUD in the past year.

Alcohol addiction develops when an individual develops a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol, leading to cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance. It can affect an individual’s health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life.

Alcohol use disorder is linked to impaired mental health, memory, and learning. It is also associated with injuries, accidents, and significant workplace and economic losses.

Treatment for alcohol addiction typically involves a combination of behavioral therapy, supervised detox programs, medication, and support groups. However, scientists are always looking for ways to improve addiction treatment approaches.

Now they are looking into the use of psychedelic medicine to treat alcohol use disorder and alcohol addiction. Here we will discuss their findings and how a psychedelic drug can potentially treat acute psychiatric reactions to alcohol.



Psychedelic Drug Therapy: Can it Help Treat Alcohol Addiction?

There is some evidence that psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, LSD, and ayahuasca may have potential in treating alcohol addiction.

Studies have shown that psilocybin-assisted therapy can help reduce drinking and improve overall well-being in people with alcohol use disorder. A small pilot study also found that ayahuasca-assisted therapy helped reduce alcohol use in people with alcohol addiction.

However, it is important to note that these studies are still in the early stages, and more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using psychedelic drugs for treating alcohol addiction.

Additionally, these substances are illegal in many countries, and their use should only be considered under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.

In any case, we’re here to discuss one particular study that involved two doses of psilocybin, which is a compound that is found in psychedelic mushrooms. The study suggests that when combined with psychotherapy, this compound can reduce drinking among heavy drinkers by 83%.

The investigation was headed by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and involved 93 individuals suffering from alcohol dependence. In this randomized clinical trial, the participants were randomly given either an antihistamine placebo or two doses of psilocybin. Both the researchers and the participants had no idea which medication was given to whom.

Within eight months, the men and women who received psilocybin were able to reduce their drinking by 83%. On the other hand, those in the placebo group reduced their drinking by 51%. These percentages were based on the participants’ drinking habits prior to joining the study.

Another important discovery made during the study was that almost half (48%) of those in the psilocybin group managed to stop drinking altogether. Meanwhile, 24% of those given antihistamine placebo were able to quit alcohol.

The study’s senior author Michael Bogenschutz, MD, director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine said: “Our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of treating alcohol use disorder, a complex disease that has proven notoriously difficult to manage.”

This is the first placebo controlled trial that explores psilocybin as a treatment for excessive alcohol consumption. It is important to note that aside from the psilocybin treatment, the participants also went through 12 psychotherapy sessions that took place before and after the drug treatments.

The participants were also asked to report the percentage of heavy drinking days that they experienced during certain weeks of the study. Other than that, they were asked to provide fingernail and hair samples to make sure they  were staying away from alcohol.

All participants were given the option to take a third psilocybin session to give everyone the chance to be treated with the drug, including those who were previously given placebo.

Researchers had previously recognized the potential of psilocybin for the treatment of depression and anxiety, specifically in patients with severe forms of cancer.

The study was funded by the Heffter Research Institute as well as individual donations. These researchers are now looking into the potential of psilocybin treatment for alcohol use disorder and other types of addiction.

Despite its potential, the research team cautions that more work needs to be done to properly determine the effectiveness of psilocybin treatment before it can be ready for widespread clinical use. Trials have started for psychedelic drug therapy.


Psilocybin Treatment: What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a naturally-occurring psychedelic compound found in certain species of mushrooms, commonly known as “magic mushrooms”. It is derived from fungi with mind-altering qualities similar to those of mescaline and LSD.

It is a potent hallucinogenic substance that can induce altered states of consciousness. Users describe having profound spiritual experiences, alterations in perception and sense of self, and intense emotional insights.

The drug raises blood pressure and heart rate, however, it is more commonly associated with its overwhelming psychological effects.

Psilocybin has been used for centuries by indigenous cultures in religious and shamanic rituals, and more recently it has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits in the treatment of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.

 Researchers warn that this drug must only be used in controlled settings.

Are Psychedelic Drugs Dangerous?

Psychedelic drugs can have potential risks and adverse effects if not used correctly. The effects can vary depending on the individual’s mental state, dosage, and environment.

In some cases, the use of psychedelic drugs can lead to psychological distress, anxiety, and even long-term mental health problems.

Aside from psilocybin mushrooms, here are some other common examples of psychedelic drugs:

  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)
  • DMT (Dimethyltryptamine)
  • Mescaline (Peyote)
  • Ketamine
  • Salvia divinorum
  • Ayahuasca

Psychedelic drugs can cause unpredictable and potentially dangerous effects on a person’s mind and body. Because of its effects on a person’s coordination and ability to make decisions, it exposes them to an increased risk of accidents and injuries.

In some cases, psychedelic drugs can also cause intense psychological effects like anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks. For people with pre-existing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia, psychedelic drugs can exacerbate these conditions.

Psychedelic drugs are also known for occasionally causing flashbacks, which are unpredictable and sudden recurrences of the drug’s effects, even long after the initial use.

Using these drugs without medical supervision or in unsafe settings can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

The production and distribution of psychedelic drugs are often illegal and unregulated, which increases the risk of contamination and impurities. Taking these illegal drugs may put you at risk of an overdose. It is essential to understand the potential risks and consult with a medical professional before considering the use of any psychedelic drug.

What are Alternative Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alternative treatments are sometimes offered by certain addiction treatment centers to help speed up a person’s recovery.

While there is limited evidence to suggest that alternative treatments can be helpful in treating alcohol addiction, these treatments work best when used in conjunction with traditional treatment methods like medical detox and behavioral therapy.

Here are some examples of alternative treatments that are sometimes used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder:

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that involves inserting needles into specific points on the body. The practice is believed to help balance the body’s energy and reduce stress and anxiety, which can help people reduce their dependence on alcohol.

Art Therapy: Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves the use of art to explore and express emotions. It can help people dealing with addiction express their feelings and develop healthy coping strategies.

Yoga and Meditation: Yoga and meditation are practices that help people manage stress and anxiety, which can contribute to alcohol addiction. Practicing these techniques can help people develop a more positive relationship with their bodies and minds.

Nutritional Therapy: Nutritional therapy involves working with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan that supports health and well-being. This can help people recovering from alcohol addiction restore their physical health and improve their mental and emotional well-being.

Music Therapy: Music therapy involves using music to help people express themselves and manage stress and anxiety. It can help people recovering from alcohol addiction develop coping strategies and build a sense of community with others in treatment.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of therapy that combines mindfulness practices with cognitive-behavioral techniques. It can help people reduce negative thinking patterns and build resilience, which can be helpful in managing addiction.

Equine Therapy: Equine therapy involves working with horses to develop skills in communication, leadership, and emotional regulation. It can help people recovering from addiction develop self-confidence and improve their relationships with others.

How is Alcohol Dependence and Addiction Normally Treated?

While these alternative treatments may help some individuals, it is important to note that they should not be used as a replacement for evidence-based treatments such as therapy and medication-assisted treatment. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative treatments for alcohol addiction.

New treatment methods are always being explored and developed by researchers. But for now, it’s worth taking a look at the proven and tested treatment methods that we already have. Alcohol addiction is typically treated through a combination of therapies and medications. The treatment plan may vary depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s specific needs. but they will generally involve:

Detoxification: This is the first step in treating alcohol addiction, which involves managing withdrawal symptoms. The process involves the removal of alcohol from the body and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Behavioral therapies: These therapies aim to modify the behavior of individuals with alcohol addiction. It includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and Contingency Management (CM).

Medications: Certain medications are used to help reduce cravings for alcohol and manage withdrawal symptoms, such as Acamprosate, Disulfiram, and Naltrexone.

Support groups: Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide support and encouragement for individuals undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction.

The treatment of alcohol addiction involves a comprehensive approach that addresses physical, mental, and emotional aspects of addiction.

The best treatment plans are highly personalized to cater to an individual’s specific needs. Look for an addiction treatment center near you today to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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