New Studies Find Psychedelics Highly Effective for Alcoholism

Psychedelic-assisted therapy for treating 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:

Brain Scans of Shamans Show Ability to Alter Consciousness Naturally

Scanning Shamanic Brainwaves 2

A new study is the first to investigate what occurs in an alternate state of consciousness by looking inside the brain of a shaman.

Shamanism is considered to be the most ancient form of healing and spiritual practice. While science has been studying the healing benefits of the psychoactive plants used by shamans to enter into an altered state of consciousness, there have been very few studies to look at the neurological nature of the state itself. A groundbreaking new study investigated the shamanic state of consciousness accessed without the use of psychedelics.

Carlos Tanner is a longtime student of traditional shamanism and the director of the Ayahuasca Foundation. an educational and ceremonial center in Peru. “Shamanism refers to an alternate dimension, a dimension where spirits reside, where communication is possible, where greater insights can be acquired and brought back to the waking-day life,” Tanner said. “So a shaman would be someone who can enter into a different dimension and then pull that back.”

The process by which shamans access this state is rooted in the rich tradition of what Tanner calls, a ‘science of consciousness enhancement.’

 “Oftentimes, there is the term ‘ceremony’ to describe the intentional entrance into this shamanic state. So there would be a preparation where there might be rituals to essentially prepare, certain clothing might be worn, and the use of certain tools, oftentimes a musical instrument, might be used,” Tanner said.

“All of those are a beautiful science of consciousness enhancement that, I think, has been developed through the continual use of a psychotropic substance, although to a point where, in many cases, the psychotropic substance is no longer needed to enter that state because the consciousness enhancement that was provided by the psychotropic substance can be accomplished without it.” 

Richard Harris Ph.D. is a researcher at the University of Michigan who conducted the recent study on the shamanic state of consciousness. Dr. Harris and his team were interested in investigating this state in its purest form, unaffected neurologically by the use of any exogenous substances. To facilitate the entrance into the altered state without the use of psychedelics, the practitioners all listened to a recording of shamanic drumming.

“So, we did a study with 24 shamanic practitioners and 24 normal, control individuals and we collected EEG data (electroencephalogram data), you know brain activity data, while each participant had their eyes closed while they were listening to classical music which was the control condition, and then while they were listening to shamanic drumming music which was the more experimental condition,” Dr. Harris said. “So, what we’re doing with the shamanic drumming, we’re using the person’s own physiology to engender the state.”

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