You Won’t Believe This Proposed Cure for Cocaine Addiction

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have been experimenting with the use of psilocybin from hallucinogenic mushrooms to treat cocaine addiction. The study was led by clinical psychologist Peter Hendricks and his colleagues. They found that felons who were administered clinical trials of psilocybin were less likely to fall back into previous patterns of crime and drug use.

UAB & the School of Public Health

For subjects, the team turned to the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC), a federal program that links drug felons with treatment programs. About 30,000 felons from around the US participate in TASC.

So how does one cure drug dependency with another Schedule 1 drug? According to Hendricks, hallucinogens have gotten a bad reputation since the controversies of the 1960s. He noted that Timothy Leary, LSD inventor and Harvard professor, was an extremist who advocated unfettered access to hallucinogens for the entire population.

“No one that I know is going the route of Timothy Leary who really was unhinged and advocated for everybody to use,” said Hendricks.

The treatment may work because it gives the addict a different perspective on their disease that may induce a life-changing revelation. The doctor compared it to Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Hendricks related that, “Something profound happened to Ebenezer Scrooge.” He continued, “Think of Saul on the road to Damascus, a great persecutor of Christians, has some sort of experience and transforms overnight.”

Treatments for Cocaine Abuse

Unlike opiates such as heroin, there is no methadone clinic that cocaine users can go to. A similar substance that has the same effect as cocaine has yet to be discovered. Most treatment programs use behavioral therapy on cocaine addicts.

The whole process is complicated by the fact that cocaine users tend to use multiple drugs – such as alcohol and heroin – at the same time. Oftentimes there are psychological issues and traumatic experiences to deal with as well. Moderate success has been reported through residential treatment programs, support groups like Cocaine Anonymous, as well as motivational incentives.

Dr. Sylvie Petitjean, working on behalf of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), found a link between gambling and cocaine use during a 24-week study in 2011. Her team managed to get 60% of 120 European cocaine addicts to stop using by offering a lottery system of rewards to subjects who tested clean.

Research for a Cocaine Vaccine

Pharmaceutical researchers have had some success with a cocaine vaccine that is still in experimental stages. The vaccine works by binding cocaine molecules to a common cold virus that causes the body to attack the drug as though it were an illness. This effectively neutralizes the effects of the drug on users, and decreases the incentive to use more cocaine.

However the cocaine vaccine is not 100% effective and tends to have different effects on different addicts. For some reason, some users have a higher immunity, possibly because they have developed a high tolerance through lung tissue damage as a result of smoking excessive amounts of crack-cocaine.

Notable schools of thought have been raised by Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, who is the chairman of the Department of General Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, Thomas Kosten, a professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, as well as Dr. Kim D. Janda, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.

Since it is monumentally harder to get addicted to magic mushrooms than it is to cocaine, UAB researchers may be on to something.

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