STORIES

A Magic Cure for Tobacco Addiction!

By David Jenison on September 20, 2017

Nicoderm, your days are numbered. The hottest new smoking-cessation aid might just be magic mushrooms! 

Research suggests that hallucinogens might be a gateway drug for ending other addictions, and a "Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction" looked specifically at magic mushrooms and cigarettes. The 2014 Journal of Psychopharmacology study involved 10 male and five female smokers who had no history of mental health disorders. The participants had a mean age of 51 and smoked an average of 19 cigarettes per day for more than three decades. The researchers administered moderate (20mg) and high (30mg) doses of psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms) for 15 weeks in a structured treatment program that included cognitive behavior therapy. 

The results were rather surprising even for those who believe in the potential therapeutic use of hallucinogens. 

After six months, 80 percent of the participants (12 out of 15) remained abstinent. By comparison, patients in traditional treatment programs with behavioral and pharmacological therapies have a 35-percent abstinence rate after six months. But the researchers didn't stop there.

In 2017, the researchers published "Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation" in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Their goal was to "assess long-term effects of a psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation program," which involved check-ins with the 15 participants. The findings were equally impressive. 

All 15 participants completed a one-year follow-up, and 67 percent (10 out of 15) were still abstinent. Moreover, 13 rated the psilocybin experiences as being "among the five most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives." Twelve participants returned for a long-term follow-up (16 to 57 months, with a 30-month average), and nine of them still refrained from the cancer sticks. 

Stating the obvious, the authors wrote, "Psilocybin holds considerable promise in promoting long-term smoking abstinence. The present study adds to recent and historical evidence suggesting high success rates when using classic psychedelics in the treatment of addiction."

The authors also conducted an online survey that included other psychedelics, and they published their findings in the July 2017 edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The survey involved 306 men and 52 women who claimed to quit or reduce smoking after ingesting a psychedelic at least one year previous. The participants on average smoked 14 cigarettes per day for eight years with five previous attempts at quitting, and none of the psychedelic use involved a laboratory setting. 

Nearly 40 percent of the survey participants were still abstinent, with 74 percent of this group remaining free from tobacco for more than two years. Twenty-eight percent reported a significant reduction from 300 cigarettes a month on average to just one, with nearly two-thirds maintaining this reduction for more than two years. One-third of the participants temporarily reduced their tobacco use before relapsing to baseline smoking levels after three to six months. 

Per the study, "Relapsers rated their psychedelic experience significantly lower in personal meaning and spiritual significance than both other groups. Participants across all groups reported less severe affective withdrawal symptoms (e.g. depression, craving) after psychedelic use compared with previous quit attempts, suggesting a potential mechanism of action for psychedelic-associated smoking cessation/reduction."

These studies have limitations, not the least of which is creating a viable control group for comparison. Horrific X-Files reboots aside, most people know whether or not they're on shrooms. Still, the efficacy rates are high by any measure and demand that further research take place, including a look at dosage levels and administering the entheogen safely.  

As noted by one researcher in New Approaches, New Possibilities: Psychedelics in Psychotherapy (2017), "A small sample and a lack of control group prevents us from certainly concluding the effectiveness of psilocybin. However, it does present itself as a potentially useful addition to existing treatments for tobacco smoking addiction. This study offers a base for further research on the effectiveness of psychedelics and mechanisms of action for addiction treatments." 

Chew on that, Nicorette. 

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