Alcohol consumption causes It accounts for 5.3 percent of all deaths worldwide and is a factor in more than 200 illnesses and injuries, ranging from behavioral disorders to traffic accidents. Like other addictive substances, regular use can be difficult for users to give up, even when it causes serious and obvious harm.
Once long-term alcoholism takes over, it changes the brain at the cellular and anatomical level, reducing a person’s ability to resist alcohol cravings and fostering addiction. In severe cases, it can cause brain damage and dementia.
“Alcohol essentially removes the brakes on the brain’s executive function, leading to cravings, overuse, and tolerance,” says Pamela Walters, a forensic and addiction psychiatry consultant and director of Forward Trust, a mental health charity. and substance abuse in the UK.
Breaking consumption habits from the beginning before they take root is the most effective treatment, Walters says.
But a number of studies on psychedelics suggest that taking a trip could give addicts a neurological recovery that makes it easier for them to eliminate harmful substances. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, can reverse the long-term neurological damage caused by alcoholism, says Marcus Meinhardt, a researcher at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany.
A November study en Science on psilocybin, co-authored by Meinhardt and colleagues in France and Germany, may have revealed a key mechanism driving alcoholism. Aiming at this neuromechanism could restore executive brain function and an alcohol consumer’s ability to better weigh the long-term damage caused by alcohol compared to the short-term reward, the authors concluded. They also recommended trials with patients as important follow-up measures to check their findings.
The study, which was limited to alcohol-dependent rats, found that animals were less likely to return to alcohol after receiving psilocybin. The answer suggests that it somehow reduced the desires of rodents.
More importantly, Meinhardt says, their levels of mGluR2, a protein essential for healthy brain function, dropped when they consumed alcohol. This mGluR2 increased after receiving psilocybin. The study authors theorize that resurgence in rats ’mGluR2 levels restored their ability to perform self-monitoring and made them less likely to discount abstinence rewards.
“As with rodents, MGluR2 is also lacking in the human brain, so we now offer mechanical knowledge on how to repair it,” says Meinhardt.
Glutamate it is essential for the normal functioning of the brain. However, when alcohol is consumed, the mGluR2 receptor behaves differently. Glutamate production also decreases, altering decision making. Deregulation of mGluR2 has been observed in those who depend on other addictive substances such as cocaine, so targeting the neurotransmitter could help treat the abuse of other substances, Meinhardt says.
The first studies on psychedelics to suggest which could make it easier for people to abandon addictive substances, either by the user acquiring perspective and experience from a so-called journey, or from effects at the biological level. A small study of psilocybin and cognitive-behavioral therapy for smokers in 2014 found that 67 percent were still tobacco-free 12 months after quitting, a success rate twice that of traditional treatments.
Humphrey Osmonda pioneer of psychedelic treatment in the 1950s and 1960s, claimed that between 40 and 45 percent of alcoholics who were prescribed LSD, which acts on the same brain receptors as psilocybin, were sober a year later.
Read more: Psychedelics could be the future of psychotherapy
Most trials of psychedelics stopped when substances were banned in 1968. But the field is experiencing a renaissance. Researchers say the problems treatable by hallucinogens could range from anxiety and depression to addiction and PTSD. For Meinhardt’s thesis, however, the leap from a rodent brain to a human is great.
Some of his previous studies of psilocybin and LSD for alcohol addiction were effective, but only in the short term. It is unclear whether the effects diminished due to psychological differences between rodents and humans or due to incorrect timing or doses, he says. His team is collaborating with Zurich researchers to see if humans will show the same response as rodents and hopes to publish the results in the summer of 2023.
“We want to better understand what exactly this restoration is like [of mGluR2] it works, so we can fully understand the molecular mechanisms of psilocybin and try to start clinical trials, ”says Meinhardt.