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UAB researcher earns grant to study psychedelic’s effects on smoking cessation

(Source: KSLA News 12)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 3:03 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Johns Hopkins University and New York University were awarded nearly $4 million in funding to study whether psilocybin, a classic psychedelic compound, works in helping people quit smoking.

The grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse is the first federally funded study of a classic psychedelic as a therapeutic in approximately 50 years.

“This is a groundbreaking study that opens the door to further study of psychedelic compounds,” said Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UAB School of Public Health and a site principal investigator. “These compounds could be game-changers for the future of mental health and addiction care.”

UAB researchers said while compounds such as psilocybin have risks, previous studies have shown these risks can be controlled and mitigated through screening, preparation, monitoring and follow-up care.

Hendricks, Matt Johnson, Ph.D., Susan Hill Ward Professor of Psychedelics & Consciousness Research at JHU, and Michael Bogenschutz, director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, will conduct the three-year study at each of their respective institutions. The multi-site approach provides a diversified pool of participants and increases confidence that results should apply to a wide range of people who smoke.

“Even the very best existing smoking cessation treatments — those that include both counseling and medication — yield abstinence rates of only 30 percent or so,” Hendricks said. “This means, if we gave 100 smokers the very best treatment money can buy, only 30 would actually quit. We need to do better. Psilocybin has the potential to significantly improve the effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments. Considering almost half a million Americans die from smoking every year, this could end up saving millions of lives, if not more.”

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