People who used “magic mushrooms” were less likely to develop an opioid use disorder, the study found

A “mushroom craze” could get even wilder, following a new study that suggests a psychedelic drug found in some mushrooms may protect against addiction.

Harvard University researchers found that people who used psilocybin were 30% less likely to have opioid use disorders than those who never had it. according to the study published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound in certain types of mushrooms that are consumed for their hallucinogenic effects. according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to assess the association between psychedelics and opioid use disorders.

More than 200,000 participants reported whether they had abused or become addicted to opioids in the past year and whether they had ever used the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, peyote, mescaline or LSD in their lives. Researchers found potentially protective benefits only with psilocybin.

“The important thing is that this is such a fertile area for further research,” said Dr. Evan Wood, Chief Medical Officer at Numinus Wellness, a Canada-based company advancing psychedelic assisted therapies. “There is an underlying biological mechanism by which psilocybin may lead to … resilience to some of the underlying risk factors of opioid use disorders.”

Study authors found that those who took psilocybin were up to 34% less likely to have had seven of the 11 symptoms of opioid addiction and abuse in the past year.

The new study supports Findings from a 2017 reportusing responses from the same database from 2008 to 2013, which found that psychedelics were associated with a 27% reduced risk of opioid dependence and a 40% reduced risk of opioid abuse over the past year.

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While the new study found protective benefits with just psilocybin, that could be because it’s experiencing a cultural moment, health experts say, and not because other psychedelics lack potentially protective benefits.

“There’s no really good reason to think that one[psychedelic]would work better than the other,” said Albert Garcia-Romeu, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There was a kind of magic mushroom craze and as a result a lot more people became interested in using psilocybin for medical and health reasons that you don’t see with some of the other more obscure psychedelics.”

Study authors speculate that psilocybin may protect against opioid use disorders by affecting the transmission of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that research has shown are correlated with addiction.

They also say that spiritual experiences evoked by the popular psychedelic may reflect the spiritual framework that has served as the basis for many addiction recovery programs.

“These mystical experiences could potentially give people a chance to heal some of their different types of addictions,” said lead author Grant Jones, a graduate student at Harvard University. “You feel a deep sense of oneness with the universe that can be a powerful reboot for people in addiction or addiction.”

While psychedelics have the potential to play an important role in addiction therapy, experts caution against using them outside of clinical settings. As with any street drug, patients risk taking a manipulated dose or using too much.

Health experts also warn that patients may respond poorly to psychedelics if they are unprepared or have certain mental health disorders outside of addiction.

“Benefits are likely to be seen when people are adequately prepared for this experience and have support to set intention around healing and work with a therapist to integrate this experience,” Wood said.

Health experts are urging anyone curious about incorporating psilocybin or other psychedelics into their recovery to visit ClinicalTrials.gov and find a research center near you.

“Right now (psychedelics) are purely research experiments and are not available from your doctor,” Garcia-Romeu said. “But if the work moves in the direction it’s going, there will probably be clinics in about four or five years where people can get that as a treatment.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

USA TODAY’s health and patient safety reporting is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation makes no editorial contribution.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: “Magic mushrooms” linked to reduced risk of opioid dependence: study

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