Resistance to legalizing magic mushrooms may one day go up in a cloud of smoke … cigarette smoke. A new study found that psilocybin can effectively help hardcore smokers kick the habit and stay away from cigarettes for six months.
According to their report in the latest edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found 15 volunteers who had been smoking an average of about a pack a day (19 cigarettes) for 31 years. Each of the ten men and five women had repeatedly attempted to quit on their own without success and were in good mental and physical shape … at least for someone who smokes a pack a day. Ten of the participants had used hallucinogens before.
The volunteers took one dose of psilocybin in a pill and spent the next seven hours in a controlled environment with two researchers. They relaxed, listened to music and wore eyeshades while the researchers helped them focus on the experience. They then received advice on how to deal with nicotine cravings and other anti-smoking tips and were required to attend weekly counseling. After two weeks and again after eight weeks, the participants received another stronger dose of psilocybin followed by the same controlled support and therapy.
At the end of six months, 12 of the 15 participants (80 percent) were still nicotine-free. By comparison, the anti-smoking drug Varenicline has a 35 percent success rate and therapy alone works only 30 percent of the time. Matthew W. Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and study co-author, explained why.
Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors. When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.
This was a limited and controlled experiment and should not be tried at home or used as a reason to start smoking. However, it’s encouraging to see more research being done on the medical benefits of psilocybin.