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Psychedelic therapy in the treatment of addiction: the past, present and future

colourful brain string


Rayyan Zafar, Maxim Siegel, Rebecca Harding, Tommaso Barba, Claudio Agnorelli, Shayam Suseelan, Leor Roseman, Matthew Wall, David Nutt and David Erritzoe


June 12, 2023


Psychedelic therapy has witnessed a resurgence in interest in the last decade from the scientific and medical communities with evidence now building for its safety and efficacy in treating a range of psychiatric disorders including addiction. In this review we will chart the research investigating the role of these interventions in individuals with addiction beginning with an overview of the current socioeconomic impact of addiction, treatment options, and outcomes. We will start by examining historical studies from the first psychedelic research era of the mid-late 1900s, followed by an overview of the available real-world evidence gathered from naturalistic, observational, and survey-based studies. We will then cover modern-day clinical trials of psychedelic therapies in addiction from first-in-human to phase II clinical trials. Finally, we will provide an overview of the different translational human neuropsychopharmacology techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), that can be applied to foster a mechanistic understanding of therapeutic mechanisms. A more granular understanding of the treatment effects of psychedelics will facilitate the optimisation of the psychedelic therapy drug development landscape, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

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