MARCH 17, 2023

Can Psilocybin Help You Quit Smoking Cigarettes?

Smoking cigarettes is a notoriously difficult habit to quit. But could psilocybin be the key to kicking the habit?

Nicotine addiction is a powerful force that keeps smokers coming back to cigarettes, even when they know the harm it is doing to their health. For many, a nicotine addiction often spans decades, and quitting often feels impossible for smokers.

However, recent studies have suggested that psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in certain species of mushrooms, may be able to help people quit smoking cigarettes. Although this research is still in its preliminary stages, indications suggest that psilocybin could aid in overcoming addiction by altering the way the brain communicates with itself.

In this blog post, we will explore the science behind psilocybin and its potential benefits for smoking cessation.

What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in over 200 species of mushrooms. It is chemically similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and other bodily functions. When ingested, psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin, which binds to serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to altered states of consciousness.

The investigation into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD is certainly not a novel concept. For thousands of years, psilocybin-containing mushrooms have been used in traditional healing practices for their potential therapeutic benefits. However, in the early 1970s, numerous ongoing inquiries into the possible medicinal advantages of psychedelics came to a halt following the passage of the Controlled Substance Act in 1970, which outlawed hallucinogens and other drugs.

At present, there is a resurgence of psychedelic research with dozens of clinical studies underway and countries like Canada and Australia paving the way for legalization of these substances. In fact, recent research has suggested that psilocybin may have potential as a therapeutic tool for a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.

How Psilocybin Helps with Smoking Cessation

While the exact mechanisms through which psilocybin helps with smoking cessation are not yet fully understood, researchers believe that it works by inducing a profound change in the user’s mental state. When ingested, psilocybin can lead to altered states of consciousness characterized by intense emotions, vivid imagery, and a sense of connection to the world around them.

This altered state of consciousness has been shown to increase mindfulness, meaning that individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective tool for smoking cessation, as it can help individuals become more aware of their cravings and resist the urge to smoke.

Additionally, psilocybin has been shown to enhance the brain’s plasticity, meaning that it can help to break habitual patterns of behavior. This can be particularly useful for individuals who have been smoking for many years and have developed strong neural pathways associated with smoking.

Studies on Psilocybin and Smoking Cessation

While research on psilocybin and smoking cessation is still in its early stages, there have been several promising studies that suggest that psilocybin may be an effective tool for quitting smoking.

A clinical trial conducted at Johns Hopkins University in 2014 and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology explored the potential of psilocybin in helping individuals quit smoking. The study involved 15 participants who had tried to quit smoking at least six times before. The participants received a moderate dose of psilocybin in two sessions, one week apart, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy. After six months, 80% of the participants had successfully quit smoking, which is a significantly higher rate than other smoking cessation methods. The study suggested that psilocybin may help individuals overcome addiction by inducing a change in perspective and increasing feelings of self-efficacy.

Another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2015 found that psilocybin-assisted therapy was associated with a significant reduction in anxiety and depression in long-term smokers. In this study, 12 smokers were given a single dose of psilocybin and participated in cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on smoking cessation. At the 6-month follow-up, 67% of participants reported that they had abstained from smoking since the psilocybin session.

While further research is needed to confirm these findings, these studies provide promising insights into the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin in addiction treatment and suggest that psilocybin may be a promising tool for smoking cessation.

Potential Risks and Considerations

While psilocybin may hold promise as a tool for smoking cessation, it is important to note that it is not without risks and considerations. Research has indicated that psychedelics are not physically addictive and can be administered safely to healthy patients under appropriate supervision. However, it has been advised by professionals that despite their non-addictive nature, psychedelics can still be misused or abused and there are still factors that need to be considered in terms of utilizing psychedelics to treat certain disorders or addictions.

First and foremost, psilocybin is a powerful psychedelic substance that can lead to intense psychological experiences. Individuals with a history of mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may be at an increased risk of adverse effects from psilocybin use.

Additionally, psilocybin should not be used as a standalone treatment for smoking cessation. Rather, it should be used as part of a comprehensive smoking cessation program that includes behavioral therapy, support groups, and other proven cessation methods.

Furthermore, it is important to note that psilocybin is a controlled substance and is illegal in many countries. While research on psilocybin and smoking cessation is promising, it is not yet an approved treatment and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional in a clinical setting.

The Bottom Line

Smoking cessation is a difficult journey, but recent research suggests that psilocybin may hold promise as a tool to help individuals quit smoking cigarettes. Psilocybin-assisted therapy has been shown to increase mindfulness and enhance brain plasticity, both of which can be useful tools for breaking the cycle of addiction.

While more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of psilocybin for smoking cessation, these early studies suggest that it may be a promising tool for individuals who have been unsuccessful in quitting through other methods. However, it is important to remember that psilocybin is a powerful substance and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional in a clinical setting.

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