Can Psychedelics Help You Kick Alcohol?

By Kelly Burch 05/24/19

Results of a new survey have convinced some researchers that psychedelics had “the potential for dramatic change.”

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person who is trying to kick alcohol

Using psychedelics can help some people kick their problematic drinking habits, according to new research. 

“Although results cannot demonstrate causality, they suggest that naturalistic psychedelic use may lead to cessation or reduction in problematic alcohol use, supporting further investigation of psychedelic-assisted treatment for [Alcohol Use Disorder],” wrote the authors of the study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology

The study relied on an online survey of people who had a history of problematic drinking that met the criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to Psychology Today. The participants had to have "used psychedelics outside of a university or medical setting, followed by reduction or cessation of subsequent alcohol use.”

Overall, 343 people met the criteria and participated in the study. Only 10% had used psychedelics—most commonly LSD or mushrooms—to try to reduce their drinking. Yet more than 25% agreed that using the drugs let to a "change in values or life priorities, which... helped change their alcohol use." On average, participants reported that they went from consuming 26 drinks per week to just 4, and 83% no longer met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. 

“Findings indicate that, in some cases, naturalistic psychedelic use outside of treatment settings is followed by pronounced and enduring reductions in alcohol misuse,” the study authors wrote.

They noted that the survey indicated that psychedelics had “the potential for dramatic change.”

One participant explained that using psychedelics “allowed me to feel whole again and forced me to reconnect with emotional trauma. It gave me insight into the nature of addiction and how it enslaves us—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Addiction numbs us to any kind of growth as a human being.”

Others said that after using the drugs they were able to see that the long-term benefits of sobriety were more important than the short-term desire to drink.

Study authors speculated that using psychedelics could help people connect with their spirituality, which in turn helped them stay sober. 

“Spirituality has long been thought to play an important role in recovery from alcohol dependence, and has been posited as a protective factor against alcohol misuse,” they wrote. “Spirituality and spiritual practice have also been found to correlate with abstinence in alcohol dependence recovery. Though a major focus of research on spirituality and alcohol misuse has been on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and 12-step programs, psychedelics may represent an alternative path to spiritual or otherwise highly meaningful experiences that can help reframe life priorities and values, enhance self-efficacy, and increase motivation to change.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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