Magic mushrooms can help quit smoking

2018-08-05T22:58:50+05:00 -DM

London-Using psychoactive drugs, such as magic mushrooms could help people defeat their addiction to tobacco, scientists have suggested.

This is because the intense psychedelic experiences mean they forget withdrawal symptoms, claim scientists.

The active compound found in magic mushrooms is called psilocybin and was administered to a handful of smokers.

The six-year study aimed to uncover the mechanism in the brain that makes it so difficult to kick the habit.

'Cigarette smoking is today a huge public health scourge and there are no effective reliable treatments,' said Tehseen Noorani of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Durham University.

'An open-label pilot study had impressive results in the treatment of cigarette smoking addiction with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, and we wanted to understand better how it worked – commonly referred to as the 'mechanisms of change'.'

For the study, the researchers interviewed 12 individuals who had participated in a previous study on psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation.

In the original study, the participants received cognitive-behaviour therapy along with two or three psilocybin treatment sessions.

The interviews were conducted an average of 30 months after the initial psilocybin sessions.

Nine of the 15 participants had effectively quit smoking after treatment with the magic mushroom-derived compound, while two relapsed and one participant became a social smoker.

Participants also reported benefits besides overcoming nicotine addiction. The people in the study reported heightened levels of aesthetic appreciation, openness to experience and engagement in the community.

'The careful preparation of participants and considered facilitation of sessions was vital, as was the trust in the team and rapport, for participants to explore their smoking addiction and to fully relax into their psilocybin experiences', said Dr Noorani.

'The way the protocol was formulated appeared to work well to dislodge smoking addiction.

'Participants reported how profound psychedelic experiences were engrossing for days afterwards, displacing withdrawal symptoms such as cravings during this time period.'

The research is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

In May, researchers revealed magic mushrooms can also improve emotional processing in depressed patients.

A study of 17 patients with treatment-resistant depression, published in Psychopharmacology, found that psilocybin treatment along with psychological support was associated with better recognition of emotional faces.

Researchers showed patients static color photographs of six male and six female white actors that were morphed to create six dynamic emotional stimuli expressing happiness, neutrality, sadness, anger, disgust, or fear.

Patients who received the treatment were better able to categorise faces showing the emotions.

The study also gave a placebo treatment to 16 people. They showed no improvement.

'Prior to treatment with psilocybin, depressed patients in this trial were shown to have a global deficit in processing emotional faces as compared with healthy controls, as reflected in longer reaction times to identify all emotion types,' the researchers explained.

'We observed a reaction time improvement post-treatment for all emotion types in depressed patients.'

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