Excessive alcohol use kills roughly 95,000 Americans every year. In a new study in JAMA Psychiatry, NYU Langone Health researchers and collaborators found that two doses of psilocybin derived from psychedelic mushrooms, in combination with multiple psychotherapy sessions, reduced heavy drinking by 83 percent on average among participants with alcohol dependence. By contrast, the double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 93 men and women—the first of its kind—found that participants given two doses of an antihistamine placebo reduced their heavy drinking by 51 percent.
Eight months after the first dose, 48 percent of those given psilocybin stopped drinking altogether—double the rate for the placebo group.
“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,” says Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD, director of NYU Langone’s Center for Psychedelic Medicine and senior author of the study.
“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.”Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD
All participants received up to 12 psychotherapy sessions during the study and reported the percentage of heavy drinking days during weeks 5 to 36. Hair and fingernail samples helped confirm the presence or absence of alcohol use. All participants, including those initially treated with placebos, were offered a third session that included psilocybin.
The research team plans to conduct a larger, multicenter trial under the FDA’s Investigational New Drug Application sponsored by the nonprofit life science company B.More.
Although more research is needed to confirm the drug’s effects and clarify appropriate dosing, Dr. Bogenschutz says the results so far suggest it may aid other disorders. “This approach may prove useful in treating addiction to other drugs such nicotine, cocaine, and opioids.”