National Opioid Awareness Day: Could Psychedelics Be a Solution?

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Awareness

Today is National Opioid Awareness Day. It’s no secret that America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic.

The most recent data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse show that over 68,000 people died from an opioid overdose in the U.S. in 2020. Opioid overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 1999.

This epidemic touches everyone in some way or another. Anyone can fall prey to addiction. These people suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) are our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is new hope on the horizon in the form of psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and other entheogens. These medicines are showing promising results in reducing addiction to opioids, as well as alcohol and other drugs.

Research on Psychedelics and Addiction

A review of studies on using psychedelics to treat problematic drug and alcohol use is published in the Current Opinion of Behavioral Sciences. The review found 3 key factors related to psychedelics and addiction.

  1. Psilocybin may reduce alcohol and tobacco use in addicted samples.
  2. Ibogaine and ayahuasca have shown promise in the treatment of various addictions through observational studies.
  3. Ketamine has been used to treat alcohol dependence and reduces cocaine self-administration in the human laboratory.

It’s important to note that psilocybin and other psychedelics are not a panacea. They aren’t going to magically cure addictions overnight. However, when used in combination with professional psychotherapy, research is showing they have the potential to be a safe and effective solution that could save the lives of people we care about.

Psilocybin for Opioid Addiction

Although many studies have been linked to alleviating a multitude of substance abuse disorders, they are not always effective on every addiction. A group of researchers recently published a study titled, Associations between classic psychedelics and opioid use disorder in a nationally-representative U.S. adult sample. The study focuses on examining the effectiveness of psilocybin, peyote, mescaline, and LSD in treating opioid use disorder (OUD).

Researchers found that “Psilocybin was the sole classic psychedelic substance associated with lowered odds of past year OUD”, and “No other substances, including other classic psychedelics, were associated with lowered odds of OUD”.

Although this research indicates psilocybin as a possibly effective treatment for opioid addiction, it also reiterates that different psychedelic substances produce different results. We cannot expect one thing to be good for everything, and that provides more reason for scientists to continue researching the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances.

International Psychedelic Drug Policy

This is why many researchers around the world are advocating for advances in psychedelic clinical trials and other research. In an official viewpoint, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, experts have this to say,

“Re-emerging clinical research suggests that psychedelic-assisted therapy has potential as an alternative treatment for refractory substance use disorders and related comorbidities. Based on the available evidence, our viewpoint supports advancing research on the potential role of psychedelic-assisted therapy within a multifaceted response to the opioid crisis.”

With a growing body of scientific evidence, as well as personal testimonies, it’s safe to say that psilocybin and other psychedelic-assisted therapies can potentially play a role in response to the opioid crisis.

If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid or other substance abuse, you can contact the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

“SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.”