Psilocybin in the Treatment of Smoking Addiction: Psychological Mechanisms and Participant Account

Albert Garcia-Romeu

Abstract: Anthropological evidence and early experimental studies suggest that structured administration of 5-HT2A agonist hallucinogens (e.g., LSD and psilocybin) may have potential in treating addictions, including alcoholism and opioid dependence. In order to assess the feasibility of psilocybin as an adjunct to addiction treatment, we have developed a smoking cessation protocol integrating elements from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness with three sessions in which moderate to high doses of psilocybin (20, 30, and 30 mg/70 kg) are administered. Pilot results have been positive, with biologically verified abstinence (CO and cotinine) achieved by 100% of participants in the current sample of nine volunteers, ranging from five weeks to 12 months abstinence depending on their current phase of treatment. Quantitative results generally showed increases in smoking abstinence self-efficacy, confidence, purpose in life, and improved concentration, as well as decreases in withdrawal related anxiety, craving, temptation, desire, and intention to smoke. Participants attributed an important role to mystical-type effects occasioned by psilocybin. These findings are limited by the small participant sample; however this pilot study is ongoing and additional volunteers are currently enrolled. Implications and future directions for research will be discussed.

Albert Garcia-Romeu is a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he is currently researching the effects of psychedelic compounds in human subjects, with a focus on psilocybin as a potential aid in the treatment of addiction. He received his doctorate at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology where he studied the measurement and experience of self-transcendence in healthy adults. Other research interests include the neural and genetic correlates of self-transcendence, potential clinical applications of mindfulness and altered states of consciousness, psychospiritual development, integral theory, and the synthesis of diverse scientific and spiritual paradigms towards novel understandings of consciousness.

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