Two new clinical trials conducted by the UW Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances (TCRPS) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy are assessing the use of psychedelics could aid in decreasing opioid and methamphetamine misuse.

“We already have evidence that psilocybin can do some remarkable things to improve the patient’s ability to gain and process important insights about their lives and experiences,” said Paul Hutson, a co-investigator on both studies. “We’re excited to see what it can do along those same lines for patients struggling with substance abuse, many of whom have overlapping mental health conditions.”

The study couldn’t have come at a better time. Three million people in the United States have had opioid use disorder and another 1.5 million have dealt with methamphetamine misuse within the last year alone. The trials will be open-label, single-arm trials, meaning there is no control group or placebo, and the goals were to test for safety and feasibility. Every participant will undergo psychological screening and at least six hours of preparatory counseling, and then receive at least one 25-milligram dose of psilocybin while being observed for eight hours by two therapists in the School of Pharmacy’s dedicated clinical research facility.

“To be optimally therapeutic, psychedelic drugs need to be integrated with an adequate preparation and screening of patients to confirm that they are appropriate to receive these medications, that they are attended by trained therapists and that they then have one or more integration sessions afterward so they can have some guided interpretation of their experience,” said Hutson. “We also recognize the need to provide subsequent support of the patients to reinforce desired behavioral and lifestyle changes. That can be a challenge in this patient population.”

After the first experience, participants can choose to take another 25 or 50 milligrams dose. The team will also integrate the experience after each session.

From the release:

The team is recruiting individuals who are actively using methamphetamine — another aspect of the study that breaks new ground. Typically, participants in substance misuse trials have detoxed and been stabilized. Studying active users will enable the researchers to take a closer look at how addiction and psilocybin impact the brain through MRI scans. Scans will be taken before and after each psilocybin dose to acquire early data on how networks in the brain associated with addiction, mental health and well-being may change across the course of the study.

By Molly Cowell

Molly is a freelance writer who lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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