Can Addictive Brain Circuits be Reset? Advances in Psilocybin Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

A new study out of the University of Heidelberg, a prominent academic medical center in Germany, dissects the signaling mechanisms of alcohol addiction. The authors, Mannheim et al, found that psilocybin can help modulate deficits in a key receptor involved in craving and “executive function.” Psilocybin’s activation of the 5HT2A serotonin receptor has downstream effects on glutamate-related receptor mGLuR2. The team’s narrow, mechanistic findings in a mouse model have yet to be validated in humans, however. The upshot: biomarker tests and “novel targets for pharmacological intervention.” The study, “Psilocybin targets a common molecular mechanism for cognitive impairment and increased craving in alcoholism,” was published in a recent issue of Science Advances

A Growing Body of Knowledge

The value of psychedelics for alleviating drug dependencies is one of the oldest research areas going back to the 60s. As Mannheim notes, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is “an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, accounting for 3 million deaths (5.3% of all deaths) annually.”

Current Limitations in Treatment

“While there are now four approved pharmacological treatments for...

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