Results for: UCalgary researchers investigate the science of psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder

The clinical trial investigating psychedelic assisted therapy will include 128 p
The clinical trial investigating psychedelic assisted therapy will include 128 people. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
UCalgary researchers investigate the science of psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder

Clinical trial to explore potential of psychedelics combined with therapy to help someone reduce or stop drinking

University of Calgary researchers are about to conduct the largest single-site clinical trial of its kind in Canada to find out whether combining a known therapy with psychedelics could be a viable treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

"Our study will help determine whether psilocybin combined with motivational enhancement therapy is a clinically feasible treatment for alcohol use disorder," says Dr. Leah Mayo, PhD, principal investigator and Parker Chair in Psychedelics at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). "We need to have scientific evidence about whether psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is an effective intervention."

Researchers will recruit 128 people diagnosed with AUD. Participants will be assigned to a specially trained therapist who will support them for the entire trial. Structured therapy sessions will be conducted before and after the psilocybin treatment. Mayo says the study will show whether a brief, intense therapeutic experience is enough for change to happen. 

"Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is something that is widely talking about, but not everyone agrees on what it means. This is particularly true for the ’psychotherapy’ component," says Mayo. "We want to start with psychotherapy, which is effective on its own for some in this population, and then determine if adding psilocybin will improve the effectiveness of treatment."

Mayo says one of the most important things in testing and developing new treatments is to develop a standardized protocol that can be replicated anywhere, so that the science can be validated and new interventions can emerge. Co-principal investigator Dr. David Hodgins, PhD, will train the therapists. 

"It’s important to collect solid and rigorous information on the use of psychedelic therapy," says Hodgins, a psychologist and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM. "Alcohol use disorder is complex. There isn’t one magic bullet that will be helpful for everyone. I’m interested in discovering whether this combination therapy could be an effective treatment for some."

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition where someone is unable to control or stop their drinking despite their drinking having negative consequences for their relationships, career or emotional well-being. Hodgins says motivational enhancement therapy focuses on having a person understand their personal motivations for trying to reduce the amount they drink, or stop drinking altogether. 

"I’ve worked with lots of people with alcohol problems. I’ve seen them struggle," says Hodgins. "I welcome improvements. I understand the appeal of the idea of psychedelic therapy, but we need science to support using it as a first line treatment."

Hodgins adds families and friends play a significant role in supporting someone who comes forward for treatment, and in helping them stay in treatment. However he says pressuring or forcing someone into treatment rarely works. 

Filament Health is supplying safe, standardized, naturally-derived psychedelic medicines for the trial.

If you are interested in participating in the study, .

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox -- a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary’s 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.

Collection of personal information Your personal information is collected under the authority of section 33(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and is required for updating your email subscription preferences. If you have any questions about the collection or use of this information, please visit our Access to Information page.