Quitting Smoking – Psilocybin for Smoking Cessation

Smoking Cessation with Psilocybin

On June 25, 2018, the team of Tehseen Noorani, Albert Garcia-Romeu, Thomas C Swift, Roland R Griffiths, and Matthew W Johnson published research on “Psychedelic therapy for Smoking Cessation” in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Smoking Cessation Study

The above referenced article describes a pilot study involving fifteen participants who completed a psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation program between 2009 and 2015.

Participants in the smoking cessation study were given psilocybin under the direction of a trained therapist.  Those participants were subsequently invited to a retrospective follow-up interview about 30 months after their initial psilocybin sessions. (Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 of the 15 participants.)

According to the study results, “Participants emphasized that the content of psilocybin experiences overshadowed any short-term withdrawal symptoms [from quitting smoking].”  In other words, the psilocybin therapy appears helpful for people struggling to overcome nicotine addiction and the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

This study highlights the potential for psilocybin within methods of treating nicotine addiction and methods of quitting smoking.

Future Methods of Quitting Smoking

Many people suffering from nicotine addiction would benefit from access to psilocybin.  Anecdotal reports suggest that it could be a safe and effective option for treating nicotine addiction.  However, presently ,access to psilocybin is extremely limited.  People wishing to use psilocybin to quit smoking must seek out illegal black market “magic mushrooms.”  Such “magic mushrooms” are highly variable in chemical composition.  Moreover, some species of magic mushrooms can cause unwanted side-effects, such as paralysis

People wishing to use psilocybin for quitting smoking would probably be better off using psilocybin formulations instead of magic mushrooms.

Aren’t natural psilocybin mushrooms good enough?  Why do we need formulations?

Mushrooms are great.  Nature is great.  There are unquestionable benefits to consuming many foods and medicines in their natural form.  Consuming mushrooms can be a highly effective way of administering psilocybin. But, this method only serves a small fraction of the people who need help quitting smoking. 

  • Many people go to their doctor for help quitting smoking.
  • Most physicians are hesitant to recommend a medicine without understanding both (1) the chemical composition of the medicine and (2) the dosing information.  From the doctor’s standpoint: (1) What am I giving this patient; (2) How much am I giving them?
  • As a result, many people with nicotine addictions are never informed that psilocybin could provide a safe, natural, fast-acting treatment.  Even those knowing about psilocybin’s potential are unlikely to pursue it without their doctor’s recommendation. Accordingly, those people are often prescribed a less effective treatment with a lower likelihood of working.

Presently, doctors do not have sufficient scientific support for recommending psilocybin based treatments to people who want to quit smoking.  Understandably, Doctors require reliable scientific support for their medical decisions.  When recommending a drug, doctors need a scientific study demonstrating that administering a known amount of that specific drug leads to a predictable effect.

The inherent variability in magic mushrooms makes it impossible for doctors to recommend them to patients.

Formulated Psilocybin Products for Treating Nicotine Addiction

Psilocybin is one molecule present in magic mushrooms. In it’s pure form, psilocybin is a white crystalline compound. In mushrooms, it is present in variable concentrations on the order of 1%.

Psilocybin formulations would make it possible to study how a specific amount of a particular molecule (psilocybin and/or derivatives) affects a person’s nicotine withdrawal symptoms.  Those scientific studies would make it possible for doctors to trust psilocybin as a means for treating nicotine addiction.  Doctors could advise patients to take known amounts of known molecules based on data connecting that treatment to a particular benefit.  Making psilocybin formulation requires increased focus on the chemicals within “magic mushrooms” instead of simply taking mushrooms.  See Psilocybin Chemistry.

Unmet Need – Psilocybin Formulations for Treating Cigarette Addiction

Precisely dosed psilocybin formulations would overcome concerns about variability in chemical composition and dosage.  Formulating psilocybin into known dosage formulations would allow doctors to recommend a treatment regimen based on research supporting that particular regimen. Earning the support of doctors would make psilocybin more accessible to people suffering from nicotine addiction because many patients rely on the advice or their doctor when choosing a treatment option.  

Properly studying, formulating, and dosing psilocybin and its derivatives would provide significant benefits for people who need help quitting smoking.  This leaves only one question: Who wouldn’t want to develop a better technology for quitting smoking?

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2 thoughts on “Quitting Smoking – Psilocybin for Smoking Cessation

  1. Tim Hagney

    Wonderful to know there is at least research being done with an entheogen to break the addiction cycle of tobacco, an incredibly tenacious habit. Hopefully also sooner rather than later providers of all stripes will understand the potential of psychedelics and then especially legally be able to help patients with addictions and other conditions like various types of anxiety and depression.

  2. Ann de Velasco

    I am absolutely furious that I am allowed to purchase a cigarette, a legal method of administering death, something with absolutely no therapeutic value, but to be able to get the one thing that might save my life, I have to commit an illegal act, and try to take a dosage unsupervised of a substance that I cannot test and determine the purity and safety of. This really needs to be rectified. I have been smoking for 42 years, been trying to quit for the last 29 and I am sick, so sick that I found an option, and cannot try it in safety. Shame on this ridiculous view of psilocybin and it’s great potential.

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