TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A clinical trial on the potential benefits of psychedelic mushrooms as a treatment tool for alcoholism recently published, shows that participants who used the mushrooms saw “significantly lower” consumption of alcohol and heavy drinking.
Study results were first published on Aug. 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. An accompanying editorial by the study’s authors published with it.
According to the authors, alcohol use disorder is “highly prevalent” and comes with a “wide array of adverse medical, psychosocial, and economic effects,” as well as being “underdiagnosed and undertreated both in primary care and specialty medical settings.”
A National Institute of Health survey from 2019 reported more than 14 million adults in the U.S. had alcohol use disorder. The NIH describe AUD as “a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”
In the study, 95 participants across multiple age groups, biological sex, and racial demographics were studied. 93 of the participants were treated with psilocybin or diphenhydramine, the psychoactive chemical in the mushrooms, and an antihistamine, respectively.
Over eight months, participants were given doses of the mushroom medication, or a placebo, and the number of heavy drinking days per month were examined. In the study, the number of heavy drinking days were reduced by those using the psilocybin treatment, with “robust decreases.” The study concludes that further research is needed, acknowledging the small group size of participants.
“Our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of treating alcohol use disorder, a complex disease that has proven notoriously difficult to manage,” study senior author and psychiatrist Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD, director of NYU Langone’s Center for Psychedelic Medicine, said in a statement from New York University.
The NYU announcement also said close to 50% of those who used the mushroom pill “stopped drinking altogether.”
According to its methodology, before the study, participants consumed alcohol nearly a third of the days in the 12 weeks leading up to treatment and testing. These days of imbibing alcohol before the start of the study included what study authors called “heavy consumption” about 52.7% of the days, and drank roughly seven drinks per each day that they did consume alcohol.
During the treatment process, patients were given psilocybin or diphenhydramine in addition to talk therapy. While those who took the placebo also drank less, participants who received the mushroom treatments “drank heavily on about 24% fewer days” compared to a 10% reduction for the antihistamine group.
Overall, the study reports “the percentage of individuals with no heavy drinking days during treatments” was three times higher than the diphenhydramine group.
Put simply, those who were given the psilocybin pill ended up drinking heavily once every 10 days, compared to once every four days over the eight-month study period.