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Classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addictions

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Abstract

Addictive disorders are very common and have devastating individual and social consequences. Currently available treatment is moderately effective at best. After many years of neglect, there is renewed interest in potential clinical uses for classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addictions and other behavioral health conditions. In this paper we provide a comprehensive review of both historical and recent clinical research on the use of classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addiction, selectively review other relevant research concerning hallucinogens, and suggest directions for future research. Clinical trial data are very limited except for the use of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism, where a meta-analysis of controlled trials has demonstrated a consistent and clinically significant beneficial effect of high-dose LSD. Recent pilot studies of psilocybin-assisted treatment of nicotine and alcohol dependence had strikingly positive outcomes, but controlled trials will be necessary to evaluate the efficacy of these treatments. Although plausible biological mechanisms have been proposed, currently the strongest evidence is for the role of mystical or other meaningful experiences as mediators of therapeutic effects. Classic hallucinogens have an excellent record of safety in the context of clinical research. Given our limited understanding of the clinically relevant effects of classic hallucinogens, there is a wealth of opportunities for research that could contribute important new knowledge and potentially lead to valuable new treatments for addiction.

Bogenschutz, M. P., & Johnson, M. W. (2015). Classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addictions. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2015.03.002
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