“Psilocybin-facilitated Smoking Cessation Treatment: A Pilot Study”
One of the most promising lines of investigation for the therapeutic use of hallucinogens in the 1960s and 1970s was in the treatment of drug dependence. We propose to examine psilocybin administration combined with a structured smoking cessation treatment program in nicotine dependent individuals in order to provide preliminary data on the efficacy of this combined treatment for smoking cessation. Prior work in our laboratory has shown that under carefully prepared and supportive conditions, psilocybin administration can facilitate highly salient experiences with enduring personal meaning and spiritual significance (Griffiths et al., 2006, 2008). It is plausible that embedding such highly meaningful experiences into a drug dependence cessation attempt may provide an enduring motivation for remaining abstinent. Cigarette smoking is a good model system for studying drug dependence because users are less likely to be challenged by the many social and economic impairments that often accompany dependence on other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. More specifically, we propose to conduct a randomized controlled comparative efficacy study in which either psilocybin or transdermal nicotine patch are administered under highly supportive conditions to individuals who are nicotine-dependent cigarette smokers, who have had multiple unsuccessful quit attempts, and who continue to desire to quit smoking. Other than nicotine dependence, participants will be healthy. Fifteen participants have already completed a preliminary open-label pilot-study with no control condition. Eighty additional participants will be enrolled and randomized to either psilocybin (n=40), or nicotine patch (n=40) treatment. Participants will receive a 13-week course of cognitive behavioral therapy for smoking cessation, with Target Quit Date set for week 5. After several preparation meetings with study monitors, participants will have either a single day-long psilocybin session using a high dose (30 mg/70 kg), or a standard 8 to 10-week course of nicotine patch treatment. Participant smoking status will be assessed repeatedly for 8 weeks after the Target Quit Date, including biological verification of smoking status through breath and urine samples. Smoking status will also be assessed at three follow up sessions approximately 3, 6, and 12 months after the Target Quit Date. Additionally, 50 of these participants (25 per treatment condition) will undergo MRI scanning before and after Target Quit Date to assess the brain-based mechanisms associated with these treatments. Individuals assigned to the nicotine patch study treatment condition will be eligible to undergo an optional high dose psilocybin session after completing the 6-month follow-up meeting.
Drug - Psilocybin-assisted treatment
Participants will be administered 30 mg/70 kg psilocybin. Preliminary evidence from our ongoing psilocybin dose-effects study suggests that this dose is associated with mystical-type experiences.
Drug - Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Psilocybin-facilitated Smoking Cessation Treatment: A Pilot Study