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University Of California, Davis gets $2.7M in Funding To Find New Psychedelics-Based Addiction Therapy

The news reports about celebrities struggling with addiction, relapsing, and sobriety are too common. But it’s not reported as often about 79,000 Americans who die from drug overdoses annually. And about alcohol killing 95,000 people in the U.S. every year.

In the recent survey, half of California population aged 12 and older reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and one fifth reported smoking marijuana in the previous year. 9% of Californians met the criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2019. California faced 7,121 deaths reported as drug overdoses in the May 2020 (12 month-ending period).

Is the current model for treating SUD going to be broken?

Treatment in rehabs in california is a vital step for someone with a problematic substance use. The state is home to hundreds of alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers.

The best rehab centers in California utilize evidence-based treatment methods and an individualized approach to help clients recover. The state is known as the birthplace of innovation for many industries, including the healthcare one.

The University of California in Davis, and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus received a lavish grant – a $2.7 million – from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The organization’s website says that they support research to “develop new and improved treatments” to help addicted people experience a better recovery process and maintain long-term sobriety. So, the NIDA issued a grant to the creation of a new, viable, and non-hallucinogenic treatment for SUD based on psychedelics.

What are psychedelics?

Psychedelics (also referred to as hallucinogens) are psychoactive substances that can alter perception, feelings, emotions, and cognition. They often cause the sensory overload that provokes hallucinations.

Many different substances fall under the umbrella of psychedelics. Some are natural and can be found in trees, leaves, seeds, and mushrooms. Others are produced in laboratories. The ones the medical community is paying attention are psilocybin, ketamine, ecstasy, and LSD.

Why are psychedelics studies funded again?

Researchers call the current wave of interest in the therapeutic properties of psychedelics “a renaissance”. In the 1950s-1965s, more than 1,000 scientific papers on this topic were published. Around 40,000 people with psychiatric issues participated in testing the drugs.

Though the idea of treating mental conditions with psychedelics was popular for some time, there’s been a large gap in the research. By the 1970s, the FDA prohibited the drugs. Medical trials ran out of money and were stalled.

Now, psychedelics are coming back after being banned for almost 5 decades. Cutting-edge medical research can bring changes into the treatment programs of the best rehabs in California.

What about the existing research?

A recent small study of adults with major depressive disorder found that 67% of people who received psilocybin showed a more than 50% reduction in their depression symptoms just in one week. In the paper, psilocybin antidepressant effects are described as quick, large, and long-lasting.

Research conducted in the last years provided the evidence of the use of psilocybin as an adjunct to treatment of SUDs, including alcoholism and nicotine addiction.

What does that mean to the best drug rehab centers in California? Probably, they will increase the range of therapies offered to people with SUD.

What studies will be done in California?

Academic groups dedicated to studying psychedelics have sprung up at the most prominent universities, including the University of California. And thanks to a $2.7 million grant, new SUDs treatments may appear.

David Olson, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, says that psychedelics are the drugs which can powerfully affect the brain. He’s excited about the opportunity to explore those effects.

In the article on the university’s website, professor Olson is grateful for the funds and shares his hopes to discover how psychedelics-derived compounds influence addictive disorders and come up with the medicine that gives better results and is well-tolerated.

The focus will be made on searching compounds with similar effects but with no hallucinations like LSD. Olson uses a term “psychoplastogens” for those compounds as they can impact the brain.

UC Davis laboratory is one of the few in the United States licensed to work with psychedelics. Local researchers have already carried out the synthesis of hundreds of molecules in the hunt for new addiction therapies. A molecule called tabernanthalog (TBG) is shown to have promising anti-addictive effects in rodents.

Mice trained to drink alcohol reduce their consumption after a single TBG dose. Giving TBG to rats with heroin self-administration has a long-term effect on opiate relapse.

TBG is a synthetic version of ibogaine (a psychedelic), but it is non-hallucinogenic and is considered to have lower health risks. At UC Anschutz, this one and other promising psychoplastogenic compounds will be tested on animals for three main features: efficacy, safety, and therapeutic potential. The best drug rehabs in California evaluate every SUD treatment by these criteria.

Final thoughts

The research in question brings about many doubts. It’s unclear how the therapy works or who it might work for. Even if clinical trials show good results, psychedelic-based drugs and their mind-altering effects won’t be suitable for every patient with SUD. Other concerns are the cost and availability.

Researchers say more time is needed to clarify how much of the fuss and enthusiasm over the potential therapeutic value of psychedelic drugs is hype and how much of it is true benefit.

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