About This Research Project
Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD
Research Professor of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center
This project seeks to measure the effectiveness of psilocybin, the active ingredient in many types of hallucinogenic mushrooms, in the treatment of alcoholism. Hallucinogenic drugs can make users see, hear, feel, taste, and/or smell something that is not real. In some cases, it appears that the hallucinogenic experience may help alcohol-dependent patients to control their drinking.
Although the use of hallucinogenic drugs in the treatment of alcohol dependence has been studied since the 1950s, no published controlled study of psilocybin as a treatment for alcoholism has been undertaken. This project will examine the effects of psilocybin on alcohol-dependent participants and gauge the effectiveness of the drug in improving their drinking behavior.
The project involves administering psilocybin to participants in controlled, therapist-supported sessions. During the study, subjects will also participate in motivational therapy sessions to address their drinking behavior.
Some participants will be given, instead of psilocybin, the anti-allergy medication diphenhydramine as a control. Diphenhydramine was chosen as a control because its effects are similar to those of psilocybin when administered at the doses used in the study. In this double-blind study, neither the participants nor the administrators will know whether a given participant receives psilocybin or diphenhydramine.
After the administration of psilocybin and the control drug, participants will be debriefed so that the investigators can understand the type of experience the participants had. Participants’ drinking behavior will also be assessed during the course of the study to evaluate the effect if any, that the psilocybin experience has on their drinking.
Males and females ages 25-65 with a SCID (DSM-IV) diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Participants must have had at least 4 heavy drinking days in the past 30 days, must want to stop or decrease their drinking, and must not be participating in any formal treatment for alcohol dependence (12-step meetings are not considered formal treatment).
Dr. Bogenschutz seeks funding for this project to support goals such as:
- Describing and evaluating the effect of psilocybin on alcohol-dependent subjects as compared to the control.
- Assessing the effectiveness of psilocybin as a treatment for alcoholism.
- Assessing whether the type of experience triggered by psilocybin determines how effective the drug is as a treatment.
This study has the potential to identify a new, effective treatment for alcohol dependence and help us to understand which participants can benefit the most from the treatment.
Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD is a Research Professor of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has an added certification in the specialty of addiction psychiatry. His areas of special interest include behavioral and pharmacologic treatments for drug and alcohol dependence, co-occurring psychiatric disorders, and the development of clinical and educational programs in addiction psychiatry.