‘Magic mushrooms’ may help treat alcohol addiction

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that excessive alcohol use kills roughly 95,000 Americans every year, often due to binge drinking or liver disease.

It is also linked to enormous economic and workplace losses, injury accidents, and impaired learning, memory, and mental health.

In a study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, scientists found two doses of psilocybin, a compound found in psychedelic mushrooms, reduce heavy drinking by 83% on average among heavy drinkers when combined with psychotherapy.

They tested 93 men and women with alcohol dependence. These people were assigned to receive either two doses of psilocybin or a placebo.

The team found within an eight-month period from the start of their treatment, those who were given psilocybin reduced heavy drinking by 83% relative to their drinking before the study began.

Meanwhile, those who had received placebo reduced their drinking by 51%.

Among the other key findings, the study showed that eight months after their first dose, almost half (48%) of those who received psilocybin stopped drinking altogether compared with 24% of the placebo group.

These 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.

Current methods to prevent excessive alcohol use and dependency include psychological counseling, supervised detoxification programs, and certain drug regimens that dampen cravings.

According to the study team, previous research had already identified psilocybin treatment as an effective means of alleviating anxiety and depression in people with the most severe forms of cancer.

And earlier research by Bogenschutz and others suggested that psilocybin could serve as a potential therapy for alcohol use disorder and other addictions.

The new study is the first placebo-controlled trial to explore psilocybin as a treatment for alcohol addiction.

The team says beyond alcohol use disorder, this approach may prove useful in treating other addictions such as cigarette smoking and abuse of cocaine and opioids.

If you care about alcohol drinking, please read studies about the root cause of alcohol addiction, and how alcohol, coffee and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that alcohol abuse can be a symptom of dementia, and results showing problematic alcohol drinking harms heart health.

The study was conducted by Michael Bogenschutz et al and published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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