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Psychedelic drug helpful in curbing addiction to smoking: Study

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Irrespective of the substance a person is addicted to, curbing an addiction is tough. Many people around the world are addicted to smoking and it is known to be a difficult habit to get rid of.

Many remedies such as Nicotine patches, cold turkey and chewing gum are tried by people globally with hardly any luck. Matthew Johnson, a behavioral pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins’ Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Baltimore, suggests a different alternative – psilocybin – a drug that has been illegal for years, in most parts of Europe and North America.

Psilocybe_semilanceata_6514Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic and is the active ingredient of ‘magic mushrooms’. Illegal, but if psilocybin is given to smokers a few times, in a carefully controlled way, Johnson says that it can be remarkably effective in helping smokers kick the butt.

The use of psilocybin spread from the labs (for research) to drug counter culture which is why it was completely banned and even research was prohibited. Johnson believes that the drug has been off limits for the wrong reasons.

Now, the research by the team at John Hopkins under Matthew Johnson, has shown promising results. More than 460 psilocybin sessions have now been conducted at Johns Hopkins alone, ranging from investigating its use by cancer patients, to its effects on meditation. The Smoking Cessation programme, which has just finished its pilot stage, has attracted a lot of attention.

The volunteers are first prepared during the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and are asked to create their own mantra, which is like something they would like to remember later in life because it could be used as a motto, which would provide them with the necessary push towards achieving their goal and quitting the habit.

After CBT, they are given the drug in tablet form, and are allowed to self-administer. Post taking the pill, they are asked to lie down, plug in earphones and relax. They are not allowed to talk, but are asked to “go inward” into their thoughts and analyse.

[Research shows there’s a] 71% success rate for people who quit smoking just after they had a heart attack,” he explains. A heart attack would certainly qualify as a profound experience, but it’s not something you can go around triggering in people in order to stop them from smoking. Instead the aim is to use a powerful psychedelic trip to trigger a similar effect… an intense, abstract experience that changes the patient’s perspective. It’s this that the team refer to as a ‘mystical experience’,” Johnson was quoted.

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