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A proposal to evaluate mechanistic efficacy of hallucinogens in addiction treatment

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Current treatments for addiction are frequently ineffective. Hallucinogenic therapy has been indicated as helpful for a range of substance use disorders, yet this approach remains understudied and publicly unavailable. It is nonetheless a promising treatment, which has significant, long-term beneficial effects with single doses and a profile characterized by general safety, low toxicity, and non-addictiveness. However, pharmacological interventions, such as hallucinogens, should not be offered if the same effects (e.g. psychological insights/mystical experiences) and outcomes (e.g. decreased drug use) could be achieved absent pharmacological intervention. To date, there have been no clinical comparisons of drug-induced altered states with non-drug-induced states for addiction treatment. We propose and then outline a clinical trial to address this gap in knowledge. The proposed design would evaluate abstinence outcomes in a population of prescription opioid abusers after exposure to one of three conditions: a drug-induced altered state using psilocybin, a non-drug-induced altered state via hyperventilation (Holotropic Breathwork), and an active placebo with niacin. The outcomes of such a study would reveal important differences in therapeutic potential by discriminating hallucinogen-dependent effects from those psychological effects resulting from altered states.

Burdick, B. V., & Adinoff, B. (2013). A proposal to evaluate mechanistic efficacy of hallucinogens in addiction treatment. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 39(5), 291-297.
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