Scientists are debating the idea of using psychedelic drugs in a therapeutic fashion to treat a number of serious medical conditions including alcoholism. Studies have found success using psychedelics to treat conditions including post traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, and cluster headaches. Scientists in the past few decades have had difficulty finding funding to conduct psychedelic research, but stronger financial support has paved the way for a resurgence of psychedelic studies. Funding is largely provided by two organizations, The Heffter Research institute, and The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). This article will focus on how psychedelic drugs are used to treat alcoholism.
Canadian psychiatrists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond experimented with giving psychedelic drugs to alcoholics in the 1950s. At the time the prevailing philosophy was that addicts did better after hitting ‘rock bottom’; the researchers thought that LSD and mescaline would scare addicts away from drinking after having a bad trip. Instead of having a bad trip most of the addicts had a pleasurable experience, leading them to see things in their life in a new way, and enabling them to control their drinking. Their studies showed a high success rate in helping alcoholics quit drinking using LSD and mescaline.
Neuroscience research has found that LSD disrupts the circuitry maintaining alcohol addiction, and allows the addict to escape from the addiction cycle… Won’t people just become addicted to psychedelics? No, at least not physically addicted. Psychedelics do not cause dopamine to be released on the nucleus accumbens, and therefore by definition are not physically addictive. Can’t recreational use cause permanent schizophrenia or psychosis? Nope, that is just another drug rumor. Psychedelics can unmask symptoms of schizophrenia for people who already have or are developing schizophrenia, but it doesn’t cause any person with normal brain functioning to develop schizophrenia or psychosis.
Psychedelics have proven successful in treating alcoholics who had failed other methods of controlling their drinking. When LSD and talk therapy were combined it proved successful in helping over half the people remain sober for over two years. Another study had a ninety percent success rate treating alcoholism using the same method. These are very high success rates for something so difficult to treat like alcoholism. Many of the people in the study claimed that the LSD treatment had saved their lives.