Of all the benefits that psilocybin offers, one of the most extensive applications may be in helping people quit smoking. Studies reveal the effectiveness of psilocybin in helping to quit smoking, making it perhaps the newest and best method of treating nicotine addiction.
Smoking is one of the hardest habits to quit and many people fail. Could psilocybin be the new answer to get people to quit smoking effectively?
The tobacco problem
First of all I want to say this - smoking anything is bad no matter what it is. Smoking is inhaling smoke and involves inhaling smoke from burning material.
No, it is neither safer nor healthier to smoke cannabis instead of tobacco; however, cannabis is not as addictive as nicotine, and a cannabis smoker will rarely fill their lungs with smoke as often as a cigarette smoker.
When it comes to smoking cigarettes, the main problem is that tobacco contains nicotine and nicotine is addictive. The French government is constantly trying to eliminate safer ways for smokers to get their nicotine fix through vaping. If a person has an addiction that is hard to break and they are not given a way to help it, they are less likely to quit.
READ VAPING MORE SAFE THAN SMOKING?
That's why banning certain vaping products in the United States is a horrible move, as the products are just as safe as smoking (although they probably come with some reprimands).
More shockingly, it was done instead of banning cigarettes, raising the even bigger question of how the US government interpreted the dangers of smoking, for which it presented overwhelming evidence of deaths.
The only thing such a ban does is to repel people who have given up smoking. The ridiculous line of demonizing cigarettes has even been invoked by the UK, which recently published a report on plans to phase out cigarettes in which cigarettes will be promoted.
The UK has declared vaping safe with new research finding that finger vaping is a great way to quit smoking, and one that should be promoted for that purpose.
Death from smoking
How harmful are cigarettes? Far worse than opioids, that's for sure, and most consider it Europe's major drug problem.
No, technically cigarettes are a much bigger problem. While opioids have caused nearly 5,000 overdose deaths in the European Union, cigarettes are responsible for 700,000 deaths per year in the EU. Not only that, cigarettes have this combined ability to harm non-smokers through secondhand smoke; which alone kills thousands of people a year.
Can psilocybin help people quit smoking?
Psilocybin is one of the hallucinogenic compounds found in magic mushrooms, although its counterpart psilocin is the really interesting compound.
Psilocybin is present in greater amounts, but is biologically inactive until it breaks down into psilocin, making psilocin the part of interest. This detail is perhaps less important to the general public than what the compounds can do once inside the body.
One of the biggest clues to how psilocybin might help people quit smoking comes from a 2017 study called Long-Term Follow-up of Psilocybin-Facilitated Smoking Cessation . In this study, researchers looked at long-term follow-up of a year or more after psilocybin treatment from a previous pilot study.
The study only included 15 adults, meaning it used a very small sample; and although all 15 reached the 12-month follow-up, only 12 returned for the 16-month follow-up.
After 12 months, 10 of the 15 participants were smoke-free. After 16 months, nine are still non-smokers. Asked after the 12th month about their experience with psilocybin, 13 out of 15 said it stuck in their minds among the five most spiritual and memorable experiences.
This research was discussed in an interview with Dr. Albert Garcia-Romeu of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which was part of the aforementioned study, along with Dr. Matt Johnson.
The interview was conducted by Psychology Today . Among the results they encountered,
“ Our most effective treatments tend to have long-term success in about a third of the people who use them, which leaves plenty of room for improvement. Our first pilot study published in 2014 found that for 15 smokers given 2-3 high doses of psilocybin with CBT, 80% quit smoking and remained abstinent 6 months later.
As a result of this research, Dr. Johnson (also of Johns Hopkins), along with researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and New York University, received a $4 million research grant. dollars from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to test whether psilocybin could indeed help people quit smoking.
Because the National Institute on Drug Abuse is a federal agency, this is the first time in 50 years that a federal agency has funded research on a classic psychedelic for therapeutic purposes .
There are other studies on this subject. In a 2022 review titled Associations between classic psychedelics and nicotine dependence in a nationally representative sample, researchers "tested whether lifetime use of classic psychedelics (tryptamine, lysergamide, and phenethylamine) was associated with lower likelihood of current nicotine addiction.
The study used data on 214,505 adults from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2015-2019). No real study was conducted by the researchers as all the information was taken from these other surveys.
The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin was associated with " reduced risk of continued nicotine addiction ", as was the case with mescaline. However, the reverse is seen with LSD.
That's a little odd, since LSD was the first psychedelic to be studied for helping with addiction, and was the main focus in the mid-1900s when doctors like Humphrey Osmond conducted trials in Saskatchewan showing the compound's effectiveness in stopping alcoholics from drinking.
This may be an indication that the model used by the researchers in the most recent study is flawed, or it could mean that LSD is not good at helping to quit nicotine addiction .
"These findings warrant further investigation into the effectiveness of the psychedelics tryptamine and phenethylamine in promoting smoking cessation." Psilocybin (and hallucinogens in general) help people quit smoking
In recent years, psychedelics (or rather, hallucinogens) have gained attention for their ability to help psychological disorders .
How exactly do they do that?
Although research on this topic is ongoing and the answers are hardly concrete at this point, it appears that psychedelics such as psilocybin can help the brain essentially reframe . The term " neuroplasticity " "refers to the ability of the brain to modify, change, and adapt structure and function throughout life and in response to experience."
Getting the brain to change does not seem easy, although research on various hallucinogens has shown positive results.
This was observed in a 1998 study of ketamine in people with anorexia. After ketamine administration, nine of 15 treatment-resistant cases were able to reduce the number of intrusive thoughts, which is also associated with drug addiction.
According to the study authors, they believe that “memory is a network of neocortical neurons, the excitation of which involves the hippocampus, and recall occurs by repeated excitation of the same specific network. Excitation of the hippocampus by glutamate-NMDA receptors, leading to long-term potentiation (LTP), can be blocked by ketamine.
The question is ?
The researchers believe that ketamine allowed these patients with very deep and reinforced neural pathways to interrupt their habitual thought cycle and create new neural pathways.
The same idea is relevant again during drug withdrawal , as the ability to make new neural connections can mean the difference between successfully quitting something like smoking and failing.
This was also demonstrated in a study on MDMA conducted by the organization MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research. MAPS is currently in phase III trials to get approval for its drug for treatment-resistant PTSD “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome” and already has results from its previous phase II trials.
In these studies, two months after receiving MDMA treatment, 61% of participants – all of whom had treatment-resistant symptoms – no longer identified as having PTSD. A full year of treatment and 68% no longer qualify as PTSD.
And what about those early alcohol studies in the 1900s conducted by Osmond using LSD? The fact that a single dose of LSD plus psychotherapy has consistently shown a 40-45% relapse-free rate of test subjects within a year.
All subjects were heavy drinkers. Over 2,000 patients were used in this study between the starting point in 1951 and the end of the study in the late 1960s, which became impossible to continue when LSD was banned.
Classification of drugs according to their dangerousness:
There are about a million products advertised to help people quit smoking, but the reality is that they don't work. If they did, there would probably be far fewer smokers.
Psilocybin is currently being researched for several different uses, and one of the main ones is to help people quit smoking.
Psilocybin may have some competition in this area, as several other hallucinogens, including ketamine and MDMA, also appear to be useful for this purpose. Perhaps in the future, those who want to quit smoking will have a range of mood-altering drugs to help them in their fight.
All information in this article is based on sources and references, and all opinions expressed are my own. I do not give advice to anyone and although I am happy to discuss topics, if anyone has another question or concern they should seek advice from a competent specialist. People who suffer from psychiatric, neurological or cardiovascular disorders or who use psychiatric drugs should completely avoid psychedelics and other drugs.