Study: Psilocybin Helps Smokers Quit Long Term

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In a follow-up study of previous research from John Hopkins University, scientists have concluded that the addiction-fighting properties of psilocybin keep ex-smokers away from cigarettes even 16 months after stopping treatment.

Psychiatry researchers recruited 15 lifetime smokers at an average age of 50 years old who smoked a pack of cigarettes per day. Over the 30+ years of smoking, all of them had already tried quitting one way or another at least six times. The researchers gave them controlled doses of psilocybin, starting small at 20 mg, and gave them one-on-one counseling about their addiction.

Six months later, 80 percent of them had quit smoking, or 12 of the initial 15, had quit. After 12 months, 10 remained abstinent, and after more than 16 months, nine still didn’t smoke—60 percent of the initial 15 participants. Comparatively, Psilocybin (a Schedule I Controlled Substance) almost doubles the success rate of FDA-approved, smoking-cessation drug Chantix (varenicline), which has a 36 percent success rate.

This research shows promise for the future of a mushroom drug that can help you quit smoking, but only when coupled with the proper therapy and counseling. Unfortunately, the FDA requires large-scale, double-blind placebo studies in order to approve a drug. Not only that, it would also help if scientists could learn how psilocybin works in this way.

Many smokers say that their psychological addition to the act of smoking something is much stronger than their physical addition to nicotine, a fact that complicates smoking cessation therapies significantly. Chantix works by getting in the way of nicotine receptors in the brain to essentially take the “high” out of smoking, but even after the nicotine craving is beaten, smokers still want to smoke something.

Psilocybin may be tackling the problem a little differently; scientists think that psilocybin coupled with therapy and deep contemplation can make you have revelations that can change your habits, urges and cravings.

“Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors,” said Matthew W. Johnson, lead author on both of the research papers. “When administered after careful preparation and in therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.”

A few years ago, the thought of a medical drug that is also a psychedelic seemed laughable. LSD has already made its away into migraine headache treatments, but in a modified form that does not produce a significant psychedelic experience. If scientists discover that the psychedelic effect of mushrooms is responsible for helping smokers quit, the day may soon come that a doctor prescribes tripping shrooms for quitting.

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