Classic Psychedelics Aren’t Addictive

William Fantegrossi, a University of Michigan Medical School pharmacologist, was the first to examine the addictive potential of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance derived from mushrooms, on a group of rhesus monkeys. One group of primates was given a lever which, when pressed, would inject them with the compound. The levers used to inject saline solution were connected to the second group.
In similar experiments, monkeys have been known to repeatedly press levers that inject the drugs heroin, cocaine and even methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Researchers attribute this phenomenon to the strengthening effects of these drugs. However, results with psilocybin were unpredictable. Some monkeys repeatedly pressed the lever until they felt intoxicated. Others resisted the urge and threw out the lever after only one dose. The monkeys were less likely to self-administer psilocybin that the more exciting saline solution.

Scientists are opening a new line of inquiry to examine the therapeutic uses of psychedelic substances. This was an area of inquiry that was closed in 1960 when the drug was first banned. Researchers have known for decades that certain psychedelics don't always make people addicted to them. This is evident in the rhesus monkey research. This is a sign of a psychedelic revival, according to a growing body research.

Another Pathway

Addiction is often viewed as a problem of human behavior. However, it also has neurological roots. The reward pathway is a mechanism in which addiction manifests itself in the brain. This is what researchers call the reward pathway. In moderation, this response can be experienced as pleasure.

The majority of recreational drugs, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, marijuana, opiates, cocaine and cannabis, artificially increase the brain's dopamine levels. They create a feeling of pleasure regardless of the stimuli. However, psychedelics operate on a completely different pathway.

Researchers use the term "classic psychedelics" to describe a group of chemically similar drugs called tryptamines. This includes psilocybin (lysergic acid derthylamide [LSD], dimethyltryptamine [DMT]) and mescaline (the peyote's psychoactive component). These compounds are different from compounds such as ketamine (PCP) and phencyclidine(PCP), which are often referred to by the term psychedelics, but have a completely different mechanism of action.

Although classic psychedelics are not able to bind to dopamine receptors well, they mimic serotonin. These compounds bind to a specific serotonin receptor, which is found throughout the brain. It has been shown that it plays a role in mood regulation, memory, emotion recognition, and memory.

However, tryptamines can cause a person's psychological reactions to be unpredictable, unlike other drugs. One person could experience a deep, joyous feeling from psilocybin. One person could consume the same amount and experience anxiety or terror. Matthew Johnson, a Johns Hopkins Medicine psychedelics researcher, said that classic psychedelics can be unpredictable. Even in the best environment, it can be both blissful or terrifying for one person. If that is your goal, it's not easy to find a drug escape.

The effects of any drug can diminish after long-term use. A single dose of opiate could be enough to kill a user for good, or it could cause addiction. Tolerances can be much higher for psychedelics.

David Nichols, a pharmacologist, writes in a chapter on psychedelics in Pharmacological Reviews that LSD daily administration leads to essentially complete loss of sensitivity by day 4. Even though a user tried to circumvent this by switching through different psychedelic substances, the effects would still be significant if not eliminated. Studies have shown that LSD tolerance can also be translated to mescaline and psilocybin tolerance.

Treatment of Addiction

These three factors, the lack of dopamine, the inability to predict the effects of psychedelic experiences, and the rapid onset tolerance, are believed to be the main reasons for low addiction rates with classic psychedelics.

The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration found that the percentage of patients who reported hallucinogens was not above 0.1% between 2005 and 2015. Comparatively, patients who reported alcohol as their primary drug of abuse have never fallen below 33 percent.

You won't find articles that address the addictive potential of tryptamines in the increasing amount of research on psychedelics. You will find many articles that examine the effectiveness of these substances in treating substance abuse disorders. LSD, along with therapy, can be used to treat alcoholism.

Continue reading: Psychedelics could be the future of psychotherapy

The National Institutes of Health granted the first federal grant in more than 50 years to a Johnson-led team for psychedelic therapy research. This grant of nearly $4 million will enable the researchers to conduct the largest-ever double-blind, randomized clinical trial using psilocybin for nicotine addiction.

Johnson said that Johnson didn't know if it would be this year or in five years. But, the data was continuing to show promising results, so it was almost impossible for NIH to not fund it.