Is the future of psychiatric research psychedelic?

If you thought psychedelic drugs were a thing of the past, you may be surprised to hear they’re still widely used today…even in research. An ongoing study at the NYU School of Medicine is investigating the effects of a naturally occurring hallucinogen, psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms), in a group of alcohol-dependent subjects.

After two doses and psychotherapy, there was a significant decrease in alcohol use (p< 0.05) and cravings (p<0.01) in subjects who reported intense medication sessions compared to those whose sessions were of low intensity. While the study is double-blind, subjects reporting high intensity scores are presumed to be on psilocybin, while those with low scores are likely controls.

Why is there an effect? Psilocybin stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain, which can alter perceptions of self and society and potentially alter behaviour. While the findings of this study are preliminary, they offer insight into therapeutic uses of psychedelics for major disorders in modern society, like addiction, depression and anxiety.

So can picking up a mushroom be the solution to putting down the bottle? Or are we trading one affliction for another? We’re interested to find out when the study concludes.

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