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:

Bicycle Day 2022 – 79 Years Since Albert Hofmann's LSD Discovery

bicycle ride pov acid colors psychedelic painting 2

Eight years before Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938, Harry J. Anslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. While both men were of Swiss descent and their life’s work centered around public drug use, their paths couldn’t have been more divergent. And now for this year’s Bicycle Day, as the tides of drug policy are shifting quicker than ever, their stories are increasingly relevant.

While most consider the United States’ war on drugs to have started with the Nixon or Reagan administrations, author Johann Hari in his book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, urges our reconsideration of the country’s infamously failed attempt at drug prohibition to an earlier date.

Hari argues that based on racism, classism, and other prejudices, Anslinger was largely responsible for creating a zeitgeist of public misconception about nearly every drug, without regard to therapeutic applications or larger societal implications.

And though Anslinger’s tenure ended just before the criminalization of LSD, it was the foundation he set in place that widely villainized the chemical for decades.

But with the recent relaxation around psychedelic substances and the recognition of their potential as powerful healing modalities, Hofmann’s radical discovery may finally be realized for what he envisioned it could be.

Read Article

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