There’s a growing body of research suggesting that hallucinogenic drugs, in therapeutic doses, might be potential treatments for alcoholism and smoking cessation. A recent analysis, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and funded by the Research Council of Norway, is asking if LSD is an effective medical treatment for alcoholism. The analysis, which looks at data from six different studies in the 60s and 70s, concludes that just one dose of the hallucinogen may help addicts abstain from alcohol.
NPR talked to Matthew W. Johnson, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, to get his opinion on the research. He’s part of a group that’s been researching psilocybin, the hallucinogenic chemical found in “magic mushrooms,” and Salvinorin A, the chemical found in salvia.
Johnson’s opinion? People who experience hallucinations, or “trips,” while taking these chemicals report that the experiences are extremely meaningful. Sometimes, they’re life-changing. People can leave the experience and decide that they’re going to quit smoking – or, in the case of patients with a terminal illness, they may more easily come to terms with their illness. He’s seen these effects firsthand with Salvinorin A and psilocybin, so he doesn’t see why it should be any different with LSD.
The important thing to note is that no one is suggesting taking multiple doses, or even high doses, of hallucinogens to combat addiction. For one thing, these drugs can have dangerous and disturbing side effects. Johnson also notes that not all people who take hallucinogens will be cured of their addictions. As a therapeutic tool, they need to be taken in the right surroundings with the right kind of support available. “There have been plenty of people who have been alcoholics who have taken LSD, and it has done nothing for their alcoholism,” he told NPR.
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