Researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported that magic mushrooms could be used in the context of cognitive behavioral therapy that could potentially help longtime smokers quit.
Smoking is a serious addiction in the United States. Smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year, while also costing over $193 billion in damages through 2004. The possibility of lung cancer is also drastically higher, as well as other lung-related illnesses. Nicotine in cigarettes is a powerful addictive substance, which leads to more and more smoking. The addiction is not only psychological, but also physical, making quitting very difficult.
The use of psilocybin, the active hallucinogenic agent in magic mushrooms, can help patients quit smoking. A study at Johns Hopkins University showed an 80% abstinence rate for those on the controlled and monitored use of psilocybin. The drug varenicline, currently the most popular on the market for treating nicotine addiction, only has a 35% success rate.
“Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors,” said lead author of the Johns Hopkins study Matthew Johnson. Instead, Johnson said, “When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.” Johnson compared this to a religious conversion rather than a shot of penicillin.
There were a total of 15 participants, all mentally and physically sound. All subjects were given magic mushrooms in the form of a pill, and were carefully monitored. Most of the subjects spent their time playing music and reflecting on their lives. When asked why they didn’t smoke, most participants said, “By changing the way you orient yourself toward the future, such that you now act in your long-term holistic benefit, rather than acting in response to immediate desire.”
In previous years, LSD was used to help treat alcoholism, which was widely successful. LSD, however, is a synthetic drug, unlike the magic mushroom, which is natural. These magic mushrooms were also used to help relieve PTSD in mice. According to an earlier report from the Inquisitr News, mice were given low doses of psilocybin, which helped them overcome the fear of electric shocks.
Johns Hopkins University will continue its research of magic mushrooms. Next, MRI scans will be used to study the brain activity in participants. Hopefully, this treatment will be effective in treating nicotine addiction.
[Image via Time Magazine]