Addiction Research

Matthew Johnson, a psychologist at John Hopkins, ran a clinical study centered around psilocybin’s effect on volunteer patients’ smoking addictions. The 15 participants received multiple sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy prior to the administration of two or three doses of psilocybin. Throughout the trial, the volunteers’ carbon-monoxide levels were continually tested to ensure they had refrained from their smoking habit. Though small, and not randomized, the study produced some fascinating results. An inspiring 80% of the participants had remained abstinent six months following the study, an outcome that dropped to 67% at the study’s one-year anniversary. Evidently, the participants who fostered the best results, including many who were able to quit smoking, were the ones who had experienced the most mystical journeys.

The University of New Mexico ran a pilot study testing the effect of psilocybin-assisted therapy on 10 alcoholics in 2015. When the researchers had previously provided motivational enhancement therapy, a specific type of therapy aimed at treating addictions, they saw little improvement in the addicts’ behaviour. However, when psilocybin was administered in combination with the therapy, the results were staggering. The researchers saw a dramatic reduction in drinking behaviour; results that persisted at the participants’ thirty-six-week check-up. Similar to the John Hopkins study, the participants who reported vaster psychedelic experiences were those who demonstrated the most progress with managing their alcohol addiction. The positive findings of this study conducted under the direction of lead researcher, Michael Bogenschutz, have incited a larger study involving 180 participants to take place; it is currently underway at NYU. 

A clinical trial testing psilocybin’s ability to treat cocaine addicts was conducted by Peter Hendricks out of the University of Alabama. He believes the psychedelic experience enlists a feeling of awe which can help to disseminate an addict’s inherent need to continually carryout destructive behaviour. He stated, “Awe promotes a sense of the ‘small self’ that directs our attention away from the individual to the group and the greater good.” This idea that the psychedelic experience offers participants an opportunity to feel connected to something bigger than themselves may be the power behind psilocybin-assisted therapies.

Researchers associated with various institutions, including Boston University and Harvard Medical School, published interesting findings in a 2017 edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The results of the study indicated a reduced risk of opioid dependency upon illegal opioid users subsequent to the volunteers’ experience with psychedelic drugs.