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Survey Shows a Growing Interest for Psychedelics in Addictions Treatment

— December 17, 2021

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Psychiatrists and other addictions treatment specialists have shown their support for legalizing psychedelics to treat a range of substance use disorders (SUDs) and psychiatric conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder.  Psychedelics have already been legalized in other areas of the world but continue to be a somewhat “underground” form of treatment.  They have also been recently decriminalized or legalized in several United States’ jurisdictions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showing support for 3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psilocybin to treat major depressive disorder (MDD).

In September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began proposing a large increase in the production of marijuana and psilocybin for research purposes in order to develop guidelines around their use as therapeutic medications.  The agency announced, “DEA firmly believes in supporting regulated research of schedule I controlled substances.  Therefore, the [Aggregate Production Quota] increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana affects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products.”

Survey Shows a Growing Interest for Psychedelics in Addictions Treatment
Photo by Michelle Leman from Pexels

The same month, a federal appeals court dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act.  At the same time, however, one of the judges offered the concurring opinion that the agency “may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.”

In general, in the United States, medication-assisted treatment of SUDs continues to be the preferred method of treatment amongst many in the addictions field.  The use of psychedelics offers another, more natural way to help.  Many believe that the legalization of psychedelics will help curb the opioid addiction epidemic as well.

Study investigator and survey administrator Amanda Kim, MD, JD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, said, “A strong positive attitude is a surprise given previous wariness of addiction specialists regarding legalization of marijuana.  We had hypothesized that addiction specialists would express more skepticism about psychedelics compared to non-addiction specialists.”

Most of the addiction specialists who submitted to the survey showed overwhelming support the use of psychedelics for treatment, but only in “a controlled setting” with a licensed therapist (in order to minimize the risk of complications).

The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) service directory was used to identify survey participants.  Investigators also included many program directors of addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry fellowships.  Overall, there were 145 respondents.  The results of the survey were presented at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 32nd Annual Meeting.

Kim noted, “In recent years, there has been increased interest in the scientific community, and the general public, in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.  Previous research has shown growing positivity about psychedelics and support for their legalization among psychiatrists.  Despite psychedelics increasingly entering the mainstream, we are unaware of any studies specifically assessing the current attitudes of physicians specializing in addictions regarding psychedelics.”  Most respondents had some clinical exposure to psychedelics with nearly 85% reporting that they’ve encountered a psychedelic experience with at least one patient.


DEA Proposes Massive Increase In Marijuana And Psilocybin Production For Research To Develop FDA-Approved Medicines

Most Addiction Specialists Support Legalized Therapeutic Psychedelics

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