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ROC Weekly News Bites
Magic Mushrooms vs. Alcoholism, Importance of Recognizing Pre-Addiction, and Excessive Social Media Use As Dissociation Rather Than Addiction
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
This startup wants to use magic mushrooms to end alcoholism
Scores of pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions have been researching the potential for psychedelics like MDMA, ketamine, LSD, and even DMT to be used in treating mental health issues such as PTSD and treatment-resistant depression for years. Even though the social stigma behind the drugs largely remains, they hold a lot of promise when it comes to treating some of the most pernicious public-health issues in society today.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Brian Pilecki, a psychotherapist and psychedelic-assisted therapy researcher, told The Daily Beast. “Most have only been small trials that were highly controlled, but we’re seeing that the people who are in these trials are doing very well. These treatments have also been outperforming current treatments [for mental health issues.]”
“What it really comes down to is we want to help patients with alcohol use disorder,” Damian Kettlewell, CEO and co-founder of Clairvoyant, told The Daily Beast. “We want to enrich their lives, so we looked at all the different research out there and found a lot of promise with psilocybin.”
His company is about to launch Phase 2 clinical trials of a new study into psilocybin’s effectiveness in treating alcohol use disorder. It will be a blind study taking place in Canada and the E.U., and will include 128 patients with the goal of completing a report in 2023. The trial, Clairvoyant hopes, will give a window into what a future for magic mushroom-assisted therapy might look like for those struggling with alcohol.
“This isn’t something where you take a pill and go home,” Kettlewell said. “It’s going to include 20 plus hours of psychotherapy.”
Why it could be so important to recognize pre-addiction
Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and two other prominent thinkers in the addiction treatment field, recently proposed the term “pre-addiction” to describe mild-to-moderate substance use disorder (SUD).
The term ‘pre-addiction’ gives a readily understandable name to a vulnerable period of time in which preventive care could help avert serious consequences of drug use and severe substance use disorders.
Why do people with alcohol and drug addiction need to hit rock bottom before their condition is recognized and treated?
If this designation takes hold, it will hopefully force the healthcare establishment (including insurers) to recognize and target resources for the pre-addiction stage. Also, people with pre-addiction will be better able to recognize it and seek treatment for it.
The idea is that the condition will be caught early when it’s easier to get a handle on and before serious interventions like detox or inpatient treatment become necessary.
A key point to keep in mind: By the time a person hits full-blown addiction to drugs or alcohol, their brain chemistry and structure have been reconfigured. Those changes can be reversed over time, but that takes months of sobriety. Meanwhile, the altered brain chemistry makes it more difficult to stay on track with recovery.
Here’s why targeting treatment at the pre-addiction stage makes so much sense:
You have a better chance of arresting the progression of the disease.
You are better able to make your own lifestyle changes and other important course corrections to head off addiction.
Your available treatments and therapies are less expensive and easier to obtain.
Your prognosis for long-term recovery is significantly better
Why it’s important to think about social media use as a form of dissociation, rather than addiction
When online, dissociation can reflect zombie-like behavior - scrolling for hours without realizing it, not being aware of one’s surroundings while scrolling, or scrolling on autopilot and then realizing you haven’t actually paid any attention to what you’ve read.
Typically, behavior like this is classified as smartphone or internet addiction.
However, researchers have begun to push back against the narrative of addiction to describe excessive smartphone use, explaining that the behavior – even if it’s a source of distress – should not be considered addiction if it’s better explained by an underlying disorder, is a willful choice, or is part of a coping strategy.
Understanding social media overuse as a byproduct of dissociation, rather than addiction, can help destigmatize social media use while empowering users. This framing also helps explain why social media sits in a paradoxical position: people have frustrating relationships with social media platforms that they are simultaneously unwilling to quit.
When users spend much more time dissociating online than they would have consciously chosen for themselves, they become frustrated and conflicted. Past research shows that many people would appreciate reminders to log off before 30 minutes of use. Otherwise, they become disappointed with the time they’ve spent.
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