Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Johns Hopkins University and New York University were recently awarded nearly $4 million in funding to study the effects of a classic psychedelic compound in helping people quit smoking.
It’s the first time in about 50 years that such a study has received federal funding, according to UAB. The grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will help fund research on how psilocybin can be used to help smokers quit cigarettes.
“This is a groundbreaking study that opens the door to further study of psychedelic compounds,” said Peter Hendricks, professor in the health behavior department at the UAB School of Public Health, who has studied classic psychedelics and addiction treatment for years. “These compounds could be game-changers for the future of mental health and addiction care.”
Hendricks said recent research into classic psychedelics has shown the benefits in these fields, but they have mostly been funded by philanthropy efforts. Results have shown effects on end-of-life distress, major depressive disorder and substance use disorder.
UAB, NYU and JHU will each conduct a three-year study, allowing for a more diverse pool of participants, according to UAB. This means the results are more likely to apply to a wide range of people who smoke.
Hendricks said currently, even the best smoking cessation methods only have about 30% success rate.
“We need to do better,” he said. “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.”