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Mushroom Clouds: Stop Smoking With Psychs

CC Background
Table of Contents
A brief history of psychedelics as a therapeutic tool against addiction
The resurgence of the field
Disclaimer and closing thoughts
How does the psychedelic experience influence addiction and habit formation?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Chemical Collective or any associated parties. Always practice good set and setting when exploring any psychedelic compounds. We have a fantastic article looking into this subject you can read here.

A brief history of psychedelics as a therapeutic tool against addiction

Using one recreational drug to attempt to quit using another might seem counterintuitive. After all, aren’t you just exchanging your current addiction for the next? This rash albeit understandable reaction appears to be the norm upon first encountering this idea, so it will be a surprise to most to learn that this is not a particularly novel hypothesis. In fact, efforts to study potential links between the psychedelic experience and a reduction in – or in some cases cessation of – addictive behaviours have been made since as early as the 1950s, most of these studies focused on the effects of LSD alongside psychotherapy on alcoholics. 

The 1950s are not a decade that is associated with the use of psychedelics at all, yet bigger leaps were being taken in the domain of therapeutic application than in subsequent years.

For instance, English psychiatrist Humphry Osmond (who coined the term ‘psychedelic’), treated over two thousand alcoholic patients with LSD between 1954 and 1960. His work seemed to pave the way for other researchers that were interested in the potential applications of these compounds. 

However, due to the fact that drugs became symbols of youthful rebellion and political dissent during the 1960s, governments around the world put a stop to the research into promising compounds such as LSD. One can’t help but wonder what doctor Osmond and other researchers like him might have achieved had they been allowed to continue their work. If this initial suppression of inquiry stifled our budding understanding of psychedelic drugs as therapeutic tools, then surely Nixon’s subsequent war on drugs burned it to the ground.

The resurgence of the field

Although it stings to know that science could have progressed about six decades more in furthering our understanding of the effects of psychedelic drugs, it does no good to dwell on the past and what could have been. The initial drug scare has subsided, and it only took a generation or two. Richard Nixon is back in his birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, except now he’s six feet deep. The powers that be seem to be softening their stance when it comes to drugs. Perhaps they have grown wiser, or perhaps they have realised that a gentle touch is more profitable than an iron fist. Regardless, it really does feel like the war on drugs is running on fumes, and that we are seconds from witnessing an unconditional surrender. Some even say we are on the verge of a psychedelic renaissance. 

There is probably no place more likely to form the nexus of this renaissance than Johns Hopkins University, where in 2014 heavy smokers were subjected to a fifteen-week program that involved cognitive-behavioural therapy, elements of mindfulness training, guided imagery exercises, and what most people would consider a copious amount of pure psilocybin, the active chemical in magic mushrooms[1]. After completing this program 80% of the participants quit smoking outright, which is an especially shocking number considering that in the control group, whose program consisted of the same cognitive behavioural therapy, but instead of psilocybin they were administered less exotic medications that are commonly used to aid smoking cessation. Only 35% of the participants in the control group abstained from smoking.

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland

What is particularly interesting about this study is that the participants who reported that they experienced a more complete mystical-type experience (or as you and I would call it: a trip), were much more likely to quit than those that did not. The results suggest that the change in behaviour is not caused by merely putting the chemical into the participant’s system, but that the experience that the chemical causes are responsible for the change.

Still, the research is in a very early stage, and the medical community has a lot of catching up to do if there is any hope of filling the void that the dismissal of these compounds left behind. However, I like to think that in a few years or perhaps decades, we will look back on this initial step into uncharted territory as the one that tore down the stigma, and brought psychedelics back into the domain of serious inquiry.

As I write this, similar studies are being conducted around the globe researching the effects of classic psychedelics (or, more accurately, serotonin 2a receptor agonists) on a myriad of pathologies, including but not limited to opiate and gambling addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Though it is naïve to think that a single class of chemicals holds the answer to all these problems, we owe it to those that suffer from these problems to investigate any potential treatments that appear to be promising.

Tobacco smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide

Disclaimer and closing thoughts

Johns Hopkins University and the researchers that worked on this study have prudently and repeatedly emphasized that the results of this study are not a recommendation for laymen to make a DIY version of this experimental program in their own homes. This is a step in the right direction, considering the fact that the unsubstantiated claims of influential pop culture icons about how the use of psychedelics would bring with it improved mental health, creativity, or the betterment of humanity in general, without any solid foundation for said claims were one of the factors that led to these substances being banned outright in the 1960s. Before we can make any concrete statements about which compound causes which result in what setting much more research is needed. 

That being said, stories do circulate about a few irresponsible people who did in fact attempt to replicate the results of the Johns Hopkins study, and word has it that they haven’t touched a cigarette since. These stories are merely anecdotal, of course, but I feel obliged to tell you that I have not so much as looked as a pack of cigarettes since I learned about this study and its results; make of that what you will.

We absolutely do condone violence against tobacco products.

Adam Alexander | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective

Adam is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to Matt via email at matt@chemical-collective.com

4 Comments

  1. Nixon made a lot of terrible decisions. In the end, perhaps this was the path society was destined to take. Human are humans after all. Fear the unknown and demonize it. Lock up the innocents. Criminalize human behavior. Eventually the next generations learn from the past and slowly the ship is course corrected towards enlightenment. The psychedelic renaissance will happen. Then we all taste the that sweet nectar of Lysergamides and heal our wounds.

  2. Interesting blog! As a former chain smoker, I hope this may help others to quit in the future. For other addictoons this looks promising also.

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