Psilocybin could be valuable in addiction rehab, study suggests

Psilocybin and addiction: Close-up shot of magic mushrooms.

Psilocybin is becoming more available as states decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychedelics. This has led more clinicians to explore the science behind this ancient medicine that has enraptured American teens for decades.

One research team recently tested a hypothesis that psilocybin could reduce the urge to drink or relapse after a short period without alcohol. The team also sought to understand how psilocybin could disrupt the memory work associated with alcoholism recovery.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects people of all ages and backgrounds, in 2021, 29.5 million people were impacted. An inability to stop drinking despite the alcohol consumption harming your social life, work, or health marks the chronic condition. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) believes that 140,000 people die yearly from alcohol-related causes. That makes it the fourth leading cause of death in America.

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Genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats (msP) with a natural affinity for binge-drinking, were used in this research. ]The rats are vulnerable to relapsing when faced with stressors or offered a drink and experience relief from high levels of stress and depression following ethanol consumption.

The study concluded that psilocybin did not stop alcohol-seeking behavior or halt the momentum of a relapse, but there were other promising results.

Psilocybin could rewrite maladaptive memories

Reframing how the mind perceives alcohol consumption could reduce the urge to pick up a drink. The first memory of something plants the flag in the brain, and every interaction with that experience (in this case alcohol) impacts that first memory. A maladaptive memory is often at the root of an alcohol addiction, and working with a professional to modify this memory could lead to greater odds of success in sobriety.

Disrupting the reconsolidation process of alcohol-related memories has been a topic of value in alcoholism research. People with AUD have “very well learned” memories that are hard to destabilize using current treatments. This research showed that msP rats that underwent psilocybin treatment in a “memory retrieval-reconsolidation paradigm” were less likely to seek alcohol.

While psilocybin didn’t show promising results for ceasing active alcohol addiction, it did show value as a tool in a clinical setting. Of course, more research is required, but the addition of psilocybin in alcohol rehabilitation facilities could lead to a higher success rate for long-term sobriety.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.