New Studies Find Psychedelics Highly Effective for Alcoholism
New studies show unprecedented success in the treatment of alcoholism with psychedelic therapy.
The psychedelic revolution in mental health has produced overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating the great efficacy of psychedelics in the treatment of various mental health disorders. Now, several new studies involving the drugs ketamine and MDMA are showing significant promise in the treatment of alcoholism.
Dr. Ben Sessa is a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Awakn Life Sciences, an English biotech company that is at the forefront of the research, development, and delivery of psychedelic medicines.
The company is especially focused on the treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD, given how prevalent and challenging it is to treat.
“Alcoholism is a huge public health problem. It’s also a psychiatric condition that’s very poorly treated with very poor outcomes with traditional methods,” Sessa said. “Relapse to drinking after getting dry is around 80 to 90 percent at 12 months. That’s an embarrassingly poor statistic. Psychedelics offer a completely new approach; they offer the patient to explore the root causes of addiction, which so often is trauma. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is an intensive upfront piece of work that gets the patient better, so they don’t have to keep coming back. It is a completely different paradigm shift to the way we currently manage patients in maintenance therapies.”
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and Awakn Life Sciences is the world’s first to examine the use of ketamine to treat AUD in a randomized controlled trial.
“Ketamine is a very well-established human medicine. It is indeed the only psychedelic that’s licensed as a medicine, as an anesthetic medicine, and has been used since the 60s as such. It’s an incredibly safe medicine. When it’s used at a much lower dose, it produces an altered state of consciousness. What we do in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy with ketamine, is we use this altered state of consciousness to affect a more effective and deeper form of psychotherapy. So, we’re using ketamine as an adjunct to psychotherapy to treat addictions,” he said.
Participants in the study had all just completed a medically supervised alcohol detox program. Those in the experimental group received treatment with both ketamine and a form of psychotherapy called KARE over the course of four weeks.
“The group that received ketamine and specific KARE psychotherapy led to an 86 percent abstinence rate at six months — absolutely blows out of the water the current best treatments for alcoholism,” Sessa said.
Just what accounts for these astounding results?
“So we know a fair bit about the mode of action of ketamine, you literally grow new brain tissue after taking ketamine,” Sessa said. “Now, this is hugely helpful because when you combine that — when you think of it as a super-ripe brain bristling with neuronal activity — with psychotherapy in which you are asking the patient to address the psychological issues that are usually around stuck, rigid narratives they hold, then you can grow this new neural tissue in the direction you want to have changes to their psychology. This is a huge breakthrough for addictions, which is so much about rigidity and stuck-ness.”
The implications of this groundbreaking study are truly profound.
“Once we get the drug actually licensed and approved for, specifically, alcohol-use disorder, it hugely broadens the accessibility and far more clinicians would be willing to be using this in a much broader way. So, it will really radically change the field of treatment of alcoholism all over the world,” he said.
In addition to their work with ketamine, Awakn has also recently completed a study with another psychoactive drug MDMA which has yielded equally significant findings.
Watch Pt. 2 of our interview with Dr. Ben Sessa:
New Gene Discovery May Explain Rapid Human Brain Evolution
A revealing new study on human evolution and brain development has just been published. Could this lend credence to the stoned ape theory of brain evolution?
About 300,000-800,000 years ago the human brain experienced a massive and accelerated growth spurt. Scientists have offered many explanations for how and why this may have occurred, but a new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital focused on a fast-evolving set of the human genome called human accelerated regions (HARS). Previous studies have found about 3,100 HARS during brain development, but the team at Children’s Hospital determined one HAR gene PPP1R17 could be responsible for or play a significant role in, rapid brain development. Further, they discovered this works differently in humans than in other animals.
Ben Stewart, the host of Gaia’s Limitless series, said,”[T]hese regions of the human DNA may hold some kind of an answer at the rapid explosion of human neo-cortex because if you think of it evolutionarily, there’s not been one creature, at least on planet Earth, that has been studied that had any organ increase in size as large and as rapidly as the human brain did, so there’s definitely some unanswered questions there.”
“I’m pretty sure that these HARS regions are being looked at for something very unique in the evolution of the brain, and my own personal twist on it is this also might be important when we start looking at brian-machine interfaces and how the brain can potentially cause mutations to adapt to some kind of technology in the brain to enhance or evolve the human brain,” Stewart said.
How could this new discovery be related to the Stoned Ape theory?
“There’s a possibility that the Stoned Ape theory could lead into this. Now, the Stoned Ape theory was really popularized by Terence McKenna,” Stewart said. “Over time, you would have some of our ancient ancestors, hominids, that would be following behind bovine creatures, cows, and in the cow patties in the fields that would naturally, having followed these creatures around for hundreds of thousands of years or whatever it might have been, that they would have started eating the mushrooms, the psilocybin mushrooms that grow naturally in cow patties. These experiences tickling the language centers and other parts of the brain, bringing down the rigidity of the default mode network, and activating other communication hubs within the brain, that could actually explain the rapid explosion of the human neocortex.”
“In this article, they’re saying that these human accelerated regions act differently in humans than they do in primates or creatures like mice and ferrets that they’ve looked into now. So, potentially if there is some connection with the Stoned Ape theory, that psychedelics or psychotropics helped in the expansion of the human neocortex, and made us as, at least psychologically, so much different than the rest of the creatures on Earth, then there may be something to look at here.”