It’s crazy hard to quit smoking. More than half of adult smokers try to quit in any given year, according to the most recent data from the CDC, and fewer than one in ten succeed.
Nicotine patches, nicotine gums, nicotine lozenges, medicines like varenicline, cognitive behavioral therapy–nothing works especially well.
This is why some scientists are intrigued by the unorthodox idea of helping people to quit smoking by giving them a psychedelic drug — psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms — along with therapy.
Scientists at the Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University have been investigating psilocybin-assisted therapy as a treatment for tobacco use disorder for more than a decade. They’ve reported quit rates among smokers that are, as best as I can tell, unprecedented in the contemporary literature about smoking cessation.
So promising are the early results that the National Institutes of Health last fall awarded a grant of nearly $4m to scholars at Johns Hopkins, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and New York University to further explore the impact of psilocybin on tobacco addiction. It’s the first NIH grant in more than 50 years to directly investigate the therapeutic effects of a classic psychedelic.
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