A World Without Addiction? The Potential of Psychedelic Medicine

  • Formal clinical studies are providing increasing evidence that in clinical settings psychedelic drug-based therapies can cure even the most-powerful forms of drug addiction, such as opioid and nicotine addiction
  • Some clinical research has observed that psychedelic drugs may even prevent substance abuse/addiction
  • The global treatment population for substance abuse is over 1 billion people

Awareness continues to grow regarding the global Mental Health Crisis. A pandemic of what are generally stress-induced mental health disorders is sweeping the world.

Counting only stress-related disorders like depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD, there are ~2 billion people with treatable mental health disorders today. Out of this massive global population, more than half are dealing with substance abuse/addiction.

Psychedelic medicine is showing the clear potential to revolutionize addiction therapy and the treatment of substance abuse.
Even beyond this, psychedelic drugs may have the potential to prevent addiction.

More on that later. To properly appreciate the medical miracle of using psychedelics to treat addiction, it’s first necessary to fully grasp the magnitude of this (mental) health catastrophe.

A massive global addiction crisis

Psychedelic Stock Watch has previously presented the numbers here.

Nicotine is both one of the deadliest poisons and most-addictive substances on the planet. Its (ab)use directly leads to over 7 million deaths per year. Yet simply because it kills addicts slowly, nicotine addiction is frequently omitted from consideration when measuring the scope and severity of drug addiction.

Nearly 200 million people were estimated to be addicted to other legal and illegal drugs. But that was before Covid lockdown-related stress caused rates of drug abuse to soar.

As of 2017, over 350,000 people per year were being killed by drug overdoses. But those numbers are also sadly outdated. In the United States alone, over 90,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020a 30% year-over-year increase.

There are between 7 and 8 million deaths per year due to substance abuse globally and ~600,000 deaths per year just in the U.S.

That’s one half of the substance abuse crisis: the massive number of people afflicted (and dying). But the reason that more than 1 in 8 people globally have a current substance abuse problem is because of the complete failure of conventional medicine in treating substance abuse/addiction.

No answers for addiction from conventional medicine

Because no single approach to treating addiction/substance abuse enjoys an adequate degree of success, conventional medicine offers several ‘therapies’ for treating substance abuse.
  1. Drug rehab clinics
  2. “12-step programs”
  3. Addiction mitigation

Drug rehab clinics are the frequent targets of jokes and sarcasm because of their inability to provide long-term relief and the regular drug relapses of those seeking treatment.

Drug rehab clinics try to help addicts. And those seeking treatment want relief from their substance abuse. But lacking any effective medications to control addictive cravings, these clinics never address the root of the substance abuse problem.

Similarly, “12-steps” programs for substance abuse (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) offer no relief for participants from their addictive cravings. Addiction is treated as a “disease” and the only solution offered is to (literally) preach total abstinence. A crutch, not a cure.

For some especially powerful and dangerous addictions (such as heroin), therapy doesn’t even try to achieve abstinence – and break the cycle of addiction. Instead, addicts are simply prescribed less-dangerous drugs to satisfy their addictive cravings, such as methadone.

It is because of the inability of conventional medicine to treat substance abuse/addiction that addiction is recognized in the United States as a category of physical disability. This failure to adequately treat substance abuse is costing the U.S. economy over $740 billion per year.

The cumulative result of decades of failure in even controlling (if not curing) substance abuse is a massive crisis. Roughly 1 in 8 people are grappling with one or more forms of substance abuse.

Over 7 million deaths per year. One drug overdose death in the United States alone roughly every 5 minutes.

These are preventable deaths, because where conventional medicine has failed psychedelic medicine is showing it can succeed in not merely controlling but curing drug addiction.

The miracle of psychedelic medicine

Clinical research using psychedelic drugs to treat addiction is still at a relatively early stage. But preliminary findings from clinical studies are nothing short of revolutionary.

The irony of psychedelic drug research not being more advanced needs to be explicitly pointed out. Research on the medicinal potential of these drugs to treat addiction (and other mental health issues) has been delayed – and largely blocked – for fifty years by the War on Drugs.

These psychedelic medicines are (with few exceptions) both non-toxic and non-addictive. Safe. Indeed, they are now being fast-tracked through formal clinical trials precisely because of their strong safety profiles.

However, over 1 billion people who are addicted to toxic and addictive opioids, alcohol and nicotine have been blocked from accessing psychedelic medicine. Because while those addictive poisons are legal, the safe medicines that can (potentially) cure these addictions – and save many lives – are illegal.
Someone dies from a drug overdose globally roughly once every minute and over 7 million die per year from long-term nicotine addiction.  This is what psychedelic medicine could be doing.

For nicotine addiction:
Using psilocybin to treat nicotine addiction, 80% of smokers were still fully abstinent 6 months later (2014 study). That’s better than double the success rate of the best existing “smoking cessation” products on the market.

For opioid addiction:
Using ibogaine to treat opioid addiction, 50% of addicts had stopped consuming opioids after one month (2017 study).

Why are psychedelic drug-based therapies generating much higher success rates and long-term success in treating addiction where conventional therapies fail? It’s because these psychedelic-based therapies are providing cures – genuine relief from addictive cravings.

This is because psychedelic drugs appear to possess unique and inherent anti-addiction properties.

Can psychedelic drugs prevent addiction?

A growing body of clinical evidence is showing that psychedelic medicine can revolutionize the treatment of substance abuse/addiction. This revolutionary potential is derived from the fact that these therapies provide genuine relief from addictive cravings, through “resetting” the brains of sufferers – in formal therapy settings.

However, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology found that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD provided “potentially effective and durable substance misuse interventions” (helped to prevent abuse/addiction) even outside a clinical setting.

Recreational drug-users using these psychedelic drugs illicitly saw a “decreased risk of opioid abuse and dependence”.

Formal psychedelic-based therapies to treat addiction rely upon “experiential” dosages of the psychedelic drug. These need to be administered by trained professionals as part of a multi-hour supervised therapy session.

Casual use of these same psychedelic drugs has been observed to at least partially prevent abuse of/dependence on other drugs, by itself. What if this anti-addiction benefit can be obtained at much lower dosage levels (i.e. microdosing)?

It’s well-established that people with particular psychological profiles are especially at risk of developing substance abuse and addiction problems, such as people with OCD (obsessive-compulsive tendencies).

Psychedelic drugs seem to possess inherent properties in neutralizing/blocking addictive cravings. It’s at least possible that non-psychoactive microdoses of these drugs could be provided to such at-risk people prophylactically.

Something close to an addiction vaccine.

Going back to the Opium Wars of the 19th century, substance abuse/addiction has been a global plague without an antidote. Today, we have that antidote: psychedelic medicine.

Curing addiction today, (perhaps) preventing addiction tomorrow. A potential future of a world without addiction.
addiction (cover) by freshidea is licensed under Adobe Stock


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