Long-Term Follow-Up of Psilocybin-Facilitated Smoking Cessation

Performance & Productivity

It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 8 million tobacco-related deaths worldwide [1]. The current methods to treat smoking addiction have proved to be hit and miss, and without long term effects. There is a dire need for a renewed approach to this endemic, and scientists might have found a way.

Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic, can be used to treat smoking and alcohol addiction. This psychedelic drug has proven successful in open-label pilot trials when administered alongside cannabidiols [2]. With mild headaches and modest acute elevations in blood pressure and heart rate as the only side-effects observed in the five-month follow-up period, there are reasons for merriment.

The Institutional Review Board of Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted the research into smoking cessation through the use of psilocybin. The Beckley Foundation and the Heffter Research Institute provided funding for this research.

Sample Size

A small sample size of 15 smokers was taken. It was ensured that the subjects did not have any history of severe mental illnesses. The end result was a population with a mean age of 51 years, with a smoking average of 19 cigarettes per day (CPD). Besides, the trialists also had a history of smoking cessation attempts. The final cut had an average of six previous attempts under their belts.

Methodology

The 15-week treatment through psilocybin included not just the exposure to the psychedelic but also four weekly counseling sessions. The first dose was given in week 5 of the treatment, with the second dosage of higher quantity administered in week 7. There was also the option for a third dosage of psilocybin in week 13.

The subjects had to submit urine and breath samples in the following ten weeks. In addition, they had to complete self-report questionnaires and consult with researchers. There were further follow-up meetings after six and twelve months [3]. Carbon monoxide (CO) was measured in breath samples, while urine analysis focused on the presence of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine.

The self-reported questionnaires were used to estimate daily cigarette consumption by the subjects prior to the study and after it. It gave a good account of daily cigarette consumption in the patients and gauged the impact of psilocybin on the users over time. Meanwhile, the persisting effects questionnaire allowed to measure the effects of the psychedelic on emotions, behavior, and attitude.

Results

The 15 participants in question were present for the 12-month follow-up, while only 12 returned for the additional 30-month follow-up. At the first follow-up, 10 participants (67%) were confirmed to have kicked the habit. Only one individual relapsed at the 30-month follow-up as nine claimed they were proven as smoking abstinent.

With respect to positive effects, all the individuals ranked themselves higher than their baseline scores. Moreover, none of the participants marked themselves in being poor well-being or life satisfaction after their experience with psilocybin. Results from two outliers were excluded. One sought outside counseling while the other’s self-grading was inconsistent throughout. Moreover, none of the participants suffered from any visual disturbances or clinically significant psychological sequelae.

Conclusion

The results from this trial are consistent with the findings of similar studies that psilocybin can be used in smoking cessation treatment. Abstinence from smoking in typical therapies has resulted in 31% [4], and the 80% recorded by this research shows that there is value in further pursuing psilocybin use. While the results are supportive of the premise, they are not comprehensive given the sample size, study design, and absence of control condition. There is a need to conduct these trials with a more significant population sample.

Citation

Matthew W. Johnson PhD, Albert Garcia-Romeu PhD & Roland R. GriffithsPhD (2016): Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation, The AmericanJournal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, DOI: 10.3109/00952990.2016.1170135

References

  1. World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011: warning about the dangers of tobacco. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2011
  2. Johnson MW, Garcia-Romeu A, Cosimano MP,Griffiths RR. Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psi-locybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. J Psychopharmacol 2014;28(11):983–992. doi:10.1177/0269881114548296.
  3. Sobell LC, Sobell MB. Timeline follow-back: a techni-que for assessing self-reported alcohol consumption.In: Litten R, Allen J, eds. Measuring alcohol consump-tion. Rockville, MD: Humana Press; 1992:207–224.doi:10.1007/978-1-4612-0357-5_3.
  4. Bogenschutz MP, Forcehimes AA, Pommy JA, WilcoxCE, Barbosa PCR, Strassman RJ. Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of-concept study. J Psychopharmacol 2015;29:289–299.doi:10.1177/0269881114565144.

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