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Psych Congress NetworkPsychedelics Show Potential to Improve SUD Treatment Outcomes

One professor thinks they can represent a new frontier in substance use disorder treatment.

With more than 106,000 drug overdose deaths reported in the US in 2021 and more than 46 million people over the age of 12 having a past-year substance use disorder (SUD), the search for new preventative and novel treatment options is critical. Psychedelics, as presented by Christopher Nicholas, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, could be a promising avenue worth pursuing.

Key Points

  • Psychedelics could be one avenue worth pursuing for SUD treatment.
  • Several psychosocial interventions with demonstrated efficacy in treating addiction may support a psychedelic-assisted therapy model.
  • Addiction and trauma often co-occur. Clinicians must prioritize safety, trust, support systems, patient autonomy, and sensitivity related to cultural and historical issues.
  • Studies on the use of psychedelics to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) suggest a favorable probability of reduced alcohol use upon administration of LSD or psilocybin in a controlled context.
  • A 2014 open-label trial of psilocybin for tobacco use disorder found a strong correlation between the quality of patients’ experience and change in their cravings.
  • Ibogaine has been used to help mitigate withdrawal symptoms in opioid use disorder (OUD) patients. In a study, 27 individuals seeking detox and treatment for opioid and cocaine dependence were given a dose of ibogaine in a controlled setting, resulting in rapid, long-lasting changes in mood and reduced heroin cravings.
  • With the rise of stimulant use disorder (SUD), particularly involving methamphetamine, Dr. Nicholas and colleagues are running an open-label safety feasibility study of psilocybin for methamphetamine use disorder.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 21 million people in the United States have at least one addiction, but only 10% of them receive treatment.

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