Psychedelics can help people reinvent themselves

Resume: In addition to helping treat mental disorders, psychedelic treatments can help people overcome addictions. A new study reports that psychedelics can help smokers quit nicotine and stay smoke-free for at least five years.

Source: University of Cincinnati

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati examined post-treatment diaries kept by participants in a 2014 smoking cessation study, which found that psychedelics were effective in helping some people quit smoking for years.

In a new article published in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, the researchers analyzed participants’ own words and found that psychedelics combined with talk therapy often helped long-term smokers see themselves as non-smokers. This new core identity could help explain why 80% of participants were able to quit smoking in six months and 60% remained smoke-free after five years.

The 2014 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that participants who tried to quit smoking and used psilocybin, the active hallucinogenic ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy were much more likely to succeed than those who used other traditional methods for smoking cessation. trying to quit smoking. .

Lead author and University of Cincinnati postdoctoral researcher Nese Devenot said the results show that psychedelics can potentially reshape self-perceptions to help people break free of old habits or addictions in the face of life’s daily triggers and temptations.

“We saw time and time again that people felt like they were done smoking and they were now a non-smoker,” Devenot said.

She studies the science, history and culture of psychedelics at UC’s Institute for Research in Sensing.

New sense of self

Devenot said this new sense of self could help people guard against temptation or old triggers.

“If you want to give up meat but you smell a delicious steak, it can be hard to resist,” she said. “But if you identify as a vegetarian and your sense of who you are is someone who doesn’t eat meat, that identity helps encourage a different choice.”

During the smoking cessation study, therapists gave participants guided imagery exercises in which they were asked to imagine smoking as a behavior outside their core identity. The participants documented their experiences in writing.

A guided imagery exercise from the study described nicotine addiction as an outside force, manipulating behavior for its own ends, like the zombie-creating fungus in HBO’s hit series “The Last of Us.”

“Like the Cordyceps fungi that functionally transform insects into ‘zombified’ puppets to serve the fungi’s own reproductive purposes, smoking behavior has been characterized as a form of parasitic manipulation,” the study said.

Credit: University of Cincinnati

Albert Garcia-Romeu, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, said psilocybin can act as a catalyst to help motivate and inspire people to make a change using cognitive behavioral therapy.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy asks us to tune in to the thoughts and feelings we experience in our daily lives and how they relate to our behavior,” said Garcia-Romeu. “In turn, people often tend to build a story or sense of self around those cognitions and behaviors.”

“This forms the basis for actually having the psilocybin experience, which can provide new insights and perspectives as well as be a marker of that identity change as a rite of passage, meaning the change from, say, a smoker to a non-smoker.”

This shows the outline of a person in blue
Devenot said this new sense of self could help people guard against temptation or old triggers. The image is in the public domain

Devenot said the experiment’s sample size was relatively small with just 15 participants. But the results are encouraging.

“I feel like I am somehow fundamentally different from yesterday,” one participant wrote. “I think I feel like there’s been some sort of metamorphosis!”

Some participants said that the psilocybin treatment made quitting easy compared to past experiences. Another said that the craving for nicotine used to be unbearable. But during the dosing session, the participant couldn’t even imagine craving a cigarette.

“The concept seems firmly entrenched in my reality even today, that craving is not something that is real,” said one.

Break out

How do psychedelics help with this transformation?

Devenot says people often get stuck in the same patterns of behavior and react in the same way to stressors or other triggers. She likens it to a downhill skier using the same rutted path down the mountain they’ve used a thousand other times.

Also see

This shows people dancing

“It’s not that simple, but it’s a metaphor for how we talk about psychedelics,” Devenot said.

“Psychedelics have been compared to skiing in fresh snow,” she said. “The deep grooves of bad habits may not affect our skis as much, so we can take other paths.”

“We’re looking for ways to help people change behaviors and overcome the inertia of their habits that are more in line with their goals and aspirations,” Devenot said. “That’s why psychedelics are of greater interest to researchers.”

About this addiction recovery news and psychedelics research

Author: Michael Miller
Source: University of Cincinnati
Contact: Michael Miller – University of Cincinnati
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Closed access.
“Psychedelic Identity Shift: A Critical Approach to Set and Setting” by Neşe Devenot et al. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal


Psychedelic Identity Shift: A Critical Approach to Set and Setting

While the literature on psychedelic medicine emphasizes the importance of set and setting alongside the quality of subjective drug effects for therapeutic efficacy, few scientists have explored the therapeutic frameworks used in the laboratory or clinic alongside psychedelics.

Based on a narrative analysis of the treatment manual and post-session experience reports of a pilot study of psilocybin-assisted treatment for smoking cessation, this paper examines how therapeutic frameworks interact with the psychedelic in a way that can quickly reveal participants’ identities and identities. change. self-esteem.

We identified multiple identity shift domains that appear to serve as smoking cessation mechanisms during psilocybin sessions, each of which had an identifiable presence in manual treatment.

As psychedelic medicine becomes mainstream, consensus-based and evidence-based approaches to psychedelic-assisted identity shifts that respect patient autonomy and encourage empowerment should become areas of focus in the emerging field of psychedelic bioethics.

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