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Addiction and Psilocybin

By Mushly.

Published on 07 July 2022

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One of the biggest challenges faced is the fact that the list of potential substances that can and/or are being abused is endless. However, the recent global opioid crisis quite literally has the world in a deadlock hold, claiming the lives of thousands (if not millions) of people every year. And to make things even worse, it has only continued to spike, spreading like wildfire amongst people of all ages. According to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) humanity has experienced several opioid crises over the last 150 years, however none has been as devastating as the current global opioid crisis.

The number of people worldwide who use opioids for non-medical purposes has nearly doubled over the past decade. In the same period, the prevalence of opioid use increased by 76%, whereas the global population grew by only 10%. These statistics are beyond shocking! Opioids are a major concern in many countries because of the severe health consequences associated with their use. The use of opioids accounts for around two thirds of deaths attributed to drug use disorders worldwide and 70% of the healthy years of life which are lost to disability and premature death.

Unsurprisingly (especially as demonstrated by the glaring and disturbing statistics), the current global opioid crisis has somewhat overshadowed addictions to legal substances like alcohol and tobacco. However, these drugs are equally dangerous and difficult for individuals to give up / fight and overcome their addition to them.

So, where exactly does all this leave us?

If you are struggling with any unhealthy patterns of addictive behaviours in your life, there is most certainly light at the end of what may seem like the darkest of tunnels at the moment. This light at the end of the tunnel is none other than Psilocybin Mushrooms / Magic Mushrooms! Research suggests that psychedelic drugs, specifically psilocybin, has the incredible potential to benefit individuals dealing / suffering from various forms of addiction – How REMARKABKE is that?

According to research, one of the top uses for psilocybin mushrooms / magic mushrooms is aiding in the cessation of addictive behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, and other forms of addiction by helping individuals manage and control these specific behaviours. While a great deal of in-depth research regarding this topic is still required, some amazing progress has been made.

A recent study conducted by John Hopkins University, led by Matthew Johnson, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that psilocybin mushrooms significantly improved the process of quitting smoking cigarettes over a 12-month follow-up period. Besides smoking, according to associate professor Matthew Johnson, psilocybin also has the potential to treat other substance use disorders, including alcohol and cocaine addiction.

How exactly does that work? According to PhD associate professor Matthew Johnson, the nature of these addictions and disorders are based on a narrowed mental and behavioural repertoire. Psilocybin, in well-orchestrated sessions, has the ability to remove an individual from their current routine and give them a new outlook on their life and a glimpse of a larger picture. In other words, it allows them to ‘see’ the bigger picture / their life (in its entirety) on a far greater scale, including all its vast potential. This in turn creates a mental plasticity that gives them the opportunity to step outside of their current reality, and addictive behaviours and move forward towards something far greater.

Psilocybin Addiction Therapy / Treatment
Let’s take a closer look at psilocybin addiction therapy, what it is, how it works, and how effective it really is.

Firstly, lets define psilocybin. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound, which, when taken, is converted in the body to psilocin. Psilocin is essentially the chemical with the psychoactive properties.

When you take magic mushrooms, these compounds bind with serotonin receptors in your brain (serotonin is a hormone found in your brain that is responsible for regulating your mood, happiness, and anxiety) to produce a range of consciousness-altering effects, ultimately inducing a psychedelic experience, also known as a trip or a psychedelic journey.

One of the most common misconceptions is that there is only one ‘type’ of magic mushroom - this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, while the most popular magic mushroom is Psilocybe cubensis, over 180 different species of magic mushrooms have been identified to date. Psilocybin is classified as a classical hallucinogen, alongside lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline (the psychoactive substance in peyote).

Research into how the classical hallucinogens, including psilocybin, could help addiction began in the 1950s. At that point, the primary focus was however on LSD and alcohol use disorder. Although the initial findings were promising, research halted when psychedelic drugs became illegal in the 1970s. Looking back, many of these early studies had methodological flaws, casting some doubt over their results’ reliability.

However, a new wave of psychedelics research began in the 1990s, this time focusing more on psilocybin. To date, studies have shown that psilocybin mushrooms could benefit a vast a range of mental health conditions, including:
    •    Depression
    •    Anxiety disorders
    •    Addition & Substance use disorders
    •    Suicidal thoughts
    •    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

While most of the scientific studies and research on using psilocybin against addiction as well as a means to potentially manage and treat addictive behaviours and disorders have thus far been concentrated on merely two addictive disorders - alcohol and tobacco use disorders – there are several ongoing clinical trails that show great promise. Such great promise in fact that the associated scientific and research communities expect to see evidence relating to other substances emerging soon / in the very near future.

Two current and incredibly promising studies include Phase 2 research into psilocybin for cocaine-related disorders and Phase 1 research into psilocybin for opioid addiction.

How Does Psilocybin Help Addiction?
Now for the next very important question – How exactly does psilocybin help addiction?
To be fully transparent, researchers are still working to uncover the precise mechanisms of psilocybin in treating addiction. There are however several theories based on what we know about the chemical and how it interacts with the brain.

When taken in moderate to high doses, psilocybin can cause a variety of psychedelic effects, including altered sensory perception, visual distortion, and heightened emotions. In addition, and perhaps the most paramount, psilocybin also appears to produce anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects that can last for some time after ingestion.

Psilocybin, and other classical hallucinogens, produces these effects because it has a similar molecular and chemical structure to the neurotransmitter serotonin. When you take magic mushrooms, the psilocybin and associated compounds bind with serotonin receptors in your brain (serotonin is a hormone found in your brain that is responsible for regulating your mood, stress response, happiness, and anxiety) to produce a range of mood-altering and consciousness-altering effects, ultimately inducing a psychedelic experience, also known as a trip or a psychedelic journey.

These mood-altering and consciousness-altering effects include spiritual or mystical experiences, which scientists believe are key to overcoming addiction. These experiences appear to help individuals adjust their priorities, focus on the future and what’s to come, and increase their motivation to quit their specific addictive behaviour. It seems that those who undergo “complete mystical experiences” are more likely to quit for longer.

There are numerous cell receptors in the serotonin system - Psilocybin binds with three of them. It primarily affects 5HT2A receptors but also influences 5HT1A and 5HT2C receptors. Interestingly, the latter two appear to regulate anxiety-like behavior, at least partially explaining psilocybin’s anti-anxiety effects.

Moreover, it also seems that magic mushrooms could help anxiety by improving neuroplasticity. This term describes the brain’s ability to alter neurons’ (nerve cells) structure and function.
Psilocybin is also known to cause a spike in cortisol, one of the primary stress hormones. This spike in turn activates a neurological system known as the executive control network, increasing one’s control over emotional processes while reducing negative thought patterns and emotions.

Finally, psilocybin reduces activity in the amygdala, the brain region associated with fear and anxiety. Scientists believe that the amygdala is one of the main areas implicated in addictive behavior. By reducing activity in this specific area, psilocybin could potentially reduce the anxious feelings that often accompany withdrawal from an addictive substance.

In addition, experts believe that psilocybin reduces activity in a system known as the default mode network (DMN). The DMN engages when we daydream, think about the past or future, and reflect upon ourselves. When it becomes overactive, the DMN could cause issues like overthinking, which often leaves our bodies and minds spiralling and heading down a dark path, ultimately leaving us feeling unhappy, disconnected, and highly anxious.

The Impact of Psilocybin on Addiction Therapy
It is essential to note that the current research only supports psilocybin for treating addiction as part of a structured, therapeutic protocol.

For example, an open-label pilot study on psilocybin for smoking cessation recruited 15 healthy volunteers. They underwent fifteen sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy, only 2–3 of which involved psilocybin use.

Before dosing, they focused on reasons to quit, including the health and financial implications of smoking. They also discussed coping with urges and withdrawal with their therapist before their target quit date.

At the 6-month follow-up, 80% of the participants showed 7-day abstinence from tobacco. This figure fell slightly to 67% at the 12-month follow-up and 60% at the long-term follow-up. However, the success rate was still significantly higher than the average, which with standard behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions, is under 35%.

A 2015 study into psilocybin for alcohol use disorder had similar findings. Ten volunteers underwent 1–2 psilocybin sessions in combination with motivational enhancement therapy. Alcohol abstinence increased significantly after psilocybin administration and was largely sustained at the 36-week follow-up. The participants also reported reduced cravings and increased belief in their ability to abstain.

These studies suggest that psilocybin has the potential to significantly enhance the effects of standard addiction therapy. However, neither involved a control group, and both studies had small sample sizes. Therefore, more research is necessary to confirm the efficacy of psilocybin for addiction.

Fortunately, a Phase 2, double-blind, randomized controlled trial is underway comparing psilocybin to the antihistamine diphenhydramine for alcohol dependence. With a sample size of 180 subjects, this study should provide more conclusive evidence once its results become available.

Psilocybin for Addiction: Final Thoughts
The current research suggests that psilocybin, combined with behavioral therapy, could be beneficial for people with substance use disorders. It appears to reduce cravings and increase motivation while having a low potential for addiction itself.

Anyone interested in trying psilocybin for addiction should contact a knowledgeable physician or therapist for further advice. Another option is to look for ongoing clinical trials locally.
Finally, anyone considering using psilocybin for substance use disorders and addiction should be aware that it is still illegal in most places. A few US cities have decriminalized the drug, and more are likely to follow suit soon. However, we urge individuals to familiarize themselves with their local rules and regulations to avoid falling foul of the law.

More Physical & Mental Health Benefits of Psilocybin Mushrooms
While psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms, are well known for their powerful psychedelic effects, few people are aware that these magical mushrooms offer a number of significant benefits.

More and more scientific studies are shedding light on the potential mental and physical health benefits of microdosing psilocybin mushrooms. From managing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, aiding in the maintenance of various forms of addiction (as discussed above), supporting several health issues, enhancing creativity, and increasing productivity to improving overall mood and well-being, to mention just a few, researchers are finally acknowledging and highlighting the potentially far-reaching benefits of psilocybin mushrooms – and it is about time!
As a result, more people have been turning to the emerging field of study that is microdosing psilocybin mushrooms as an alternative means to manage their physical and mental health.

Although the movement surrounding the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms is not progressing nearly as swiftly as the legalization of marijuana, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel as some researchers believe that psilocybin mushrooms could see approval in the near future.
Psilocybin mushrooms also boasts some powerful therapeutic benefits and have already been decriminalized in several countries around the world as researchers continue to dive deeper into their potential to treat numerous disorders and conditions.

Psilocybin Mushrooms as an alternative treatment for depression & anxiety
Did you know that global revenues from antidepressant medication sales are expected to reach over $15 billion? And that figure is only estimated to increase over the next few years. The truth is, selling more and more of the same antidepressants is simply unsustainable. Several research studies have shown that in many cases, antidepressants are hardly more effective than placebos. A comprehensive review of existing studies on antidepressants concluded that “there seems to be little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to anyone but the most severely depressed patients.” Yet, despite the research, the billions of dollars made, and millions of prescriptions filled, depression continues to persist.

For this reason, more people have been turning to the emerging field of study of psilocybin mushrooms as an alternative means to manage their mental health.
Using psilocybin mushrooms as an alternative means to treat and manage mental health conditions like depression and anxiety has long been a topic of debate and interest, not only in the psychedelic community, but the scientific and medical field too. Thus giving rise to the all-important question - Could psychedelics be used as an alternative to antidepressant to manage depression?

Psychologists, therapists, and researchers have considered this possibility since the early 20th century. However, the study of psilocybin mushrooms, and its potential to effectively treat and manage mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression has not been without its struggles. In addition to the negative ‘stigma’ surrounding magic mushrooms, the War on Drugs made it nearly impossible to conduct thorough clinical research.
However, thanks to resolute researchers, medical professionals, scientists, and psychologists that continued to fight the good fight, determined to shed light on the countless potential mental health benefits of psilocybin mushrooms, the resistance against psilocybin mushrooms is finally starting to recede. According to David Nutt a neuro-psycho-pharmacologist and professor at Imperial College London, psychiatry is slowly emerging from a 30-year dark age, during which antidepressants were regarded as the only accepted medicinal treatment for mental health conditions. This is finally starting to change!

Although there is still a long road ahead, there has been some profound research and scientific studies that has shown incredibly promising results. In fact, psilocybin therapy was recently given “breakthrough therapy” designation (a review fast track) by the FDA for the treatment of depression – Which is a truly remarkable achievement and an incredible step in the right direction.

To add some more positive fuel to this fire, psilocybin mushrooms emerged as a ground-breaking therapy tool for the treatment and management of various chronic ailments, from alleviating symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to the management of addiction and addictive behaviours, and several mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In fact, psilocybin therapy was recently given “breakthrough therapy” designation (a review fast track) by the FDA for the treatment of depression.

To step it up another notch, as mental health is such a vital component of any individual’s overall health and wellbeing, new research and scientific studies are continuously being conducted on psilocybin mushrooms and its ability to manage and treat various mental health conditions effectively. This means that in addition to the already promising studies and results, there may be even more incredible breakthroughs on the horizon and thus a very bright future ahead with regards to mental health and magic mushrooms.