Treating Psilocybin Mushroom Addiction
How to Approach a Psilocybin Addict
It can be difficult to watch someone you care about struggle with a psilocybin or “magic mushrooms” addiction. Your loved one may engage in self-destructive behaviors and isolate themselves from others. Oftentimes, individuals with a substance addiction are in denial about their problematic patterns of use. Fortunately, there are several structured options for concerned individuals to consider when approaching a psilocybin addict.
Formalized strategies that can be used to help an individual with a psilocybin addiction into treatment include the following:
- Contacting a Local Mental Health Treatment Provider. Often, individuals who are concerned about a loved one with an addiction do not know where to begin. The first step may be the most important. In these cases, it is often advisable to contact a local mental health treatment provider that specializes in addiction treatment. The treatment provider can make an objective determination as to what course of action to take. This may involve the treatment provider meeting with the person or the formation of a team to perform an intervention.
- Performing an Intervention: In this context, an intervention occurs when a group of close friends or family members of the addict approaches the individual and attempts to persuade them to get treatment 1. Individuals suffering from an addiction are more likely to engage in treatment if significant others are involved in the intervention process 1. Successful interventions are organized, overseen by a professional interventionist or professional addiction treatment specialist, and serve to approach the individual in a caring and non-confrontational manner.
- CRAFT: An alternative to standard interventions is Community Reinforcement and Family Training Model (CRAFT), which is a comprehensive approach designed to help concerned significant others (CSOs) navigate a loved one’s addiction and ultimately increase treatment engagement 3. The program assists the CSO by helping them to learn their role in their loved one’s addiction and teaches them how to positively motivate the family member into treatment. Finally, CRAFT teaches family members and friends how to take care of themselves so they can fully support their loved one in the healthiest manner.
Psilocybin addiction doesn’t have to be battled alone. There are a number of different treatment options for those who abuse psilocybin. Standard treatment protocols for addiction can be combined with specialized adjustments for each individual’s unique needs. Options for addiction treatment may include:
- Inpatient Treatment and Care: Although there is no current evidence that individuals who chronically use/abuse psilocybin will exhibit any physical dependence to the drug, problematic patterns of use can still develop. Individuals who compulsively abuse psilocybin may benefit from an inpatient addiction treatment program initially. Treatment in an inpatient setting helps patients distance themselves from personal and environmental factors that may initiate a relapse, allowing them to focus solely on their recovery.
- Dual Diagnosis Care: Some individuals suffering from psilocybin addiction may additionally suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Someone with an addiction and a comorbid mental health condition is said to have a dual diagnosis. It’s important that those with a dual diagnosis receive a comprehensive treatment program that addresses both issues simultaneously in order to reduce the risk of relapse.
- Psychotherapy: Those in recovery will benefit from psychotherapy in the form of group therapy, individual therapy, or a combination of both allowing them to explore the issues that led to their psilocybin abuse. Therapy helps patients to identify warning signs of relapse and utilize coping skills in trigger situations. Additionally, counseling can aid in the development of stress management and relapse prevention skills.
- Social support: An important aspect of recovery from psilocybin addiction is social support. This can come in the way of family assistance and therapy, community mental health care groups, 12-step groups, or alternative groups, such as SMART Recovery.
- Additional Services: Other important supports should be provided as needed. Examples include, psychoeducation, peer support, vocational rehabilitation, drug education, relapse prevention groups, and case management.
Is It Addictive?
To date, there has been little evidence to suggest that individuals who use psilocybin long-term develop physical dependence to the drug. Tolerance, on the other hand, does most likely develop in individuals who use the drug repeatedly 6; however, there is no evidence that a withdrawal syndrome occurs in these individuals.
It is important to understand, though, that one does not have to develop physical dependence in order to have an addiction to the hallucinogen. Addiction is characterized by problematic use despite negative consequences, and using mushrooms can lead to significant impairment and distress in the user’s life. An individual who meets the formal diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder (see below) with regards to their use of psilocybin would be diagnosed with what’s known as a hallucinogen use disorder, and may benefit from a formal treatment program.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
According to a number of sources, the addictive potential of psilocybin is questionable 5, 6, 7. Still, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration classifies psilocybin as a Schedule I controlled substance along with other substances, such as heroin, that are characterized as having a high potential for abuse and for the development of physical and psychological dependence 8.
Reliable figures on psilocybin use/abuse are not available; however, in 2014, approximately 1.2 million individuals over the age of 12 reported being current users of psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs9. Even if the abuse potential for psilocybin is not as high as it is for other drugs, some of these individuals may still develop compulsive behaviors that qualify as a substance use disorder.
Am I Addicted to Psilocybin?
While the signs of addiction may provide a good indication of whether you have a problem, the only sure method of determining if you have a psilocybin addiction is to have a professional assessment performed by a licensed addiction specialist or other medical or mental health professional.
Do not attempt to diagnose yourself or anyone else.
The signs of a psilocybin addiction or, more technically, a hallucinogen use disorder, include 10:
- Compulsive psilocybin use despite negative physical and psychological problems.
- Inability to quit or cut down on use.
- Using psilocybin more often or for longer periods of time than originally attended.
- Spending a significant amount of time trying to obtain and use the drug, as well as recover from its effects.
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at home, school, or work because of psilocybin use.
- Strong cravings or urges to use it.
- Continuing to use psilocybin despite interpersonal and social problems caused by use.
- Neglecting previously enjoyed recreational, social, or occupational activities in favor of use.
- Taking psilocybin in hazardous situations, such as while driving.
- Continuing to use it despite psychological or physical detriments caused or exacerbated by use.
- Needing increasing amounts of psilocybin over time to produce desired effects.
In order to be diagnosed with a psilocybin addiction, the individual must demonstrate 2 or more of the above symptoms within a 12-month period 10.
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- Landau, J., Stanton, M. D., Brinkman‐Sull, D., Ikle, D., McCormick, D., Garrett, J., ... & Wamboldt, F. (2004). Outcomes with the ARISE Approach to Engaging Reluctant Drug‐and Alcohol‐Dependent Individuals in Treatment. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 30(4), 711-748.
- Association of Intervention Specialists. http://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org.
- American Psychological Association. (2016). Community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT).
- Ries, R. K., Fiellin, D. A., Miller, S. C., & Saitz, R. (2014). The ASAM principles of addiction medicine. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
- Laing, R. R. (2003). Hallucinogens: a forensic drug handbook. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug facts: hallucinogens.
- van Amsterdam, J., Opperhuizen, A., & van den Brink, W. (2011). Harm potential of magic mushroom use: a review. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 59(3), 423-429.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (N. D.). Drug scheduling.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the national survey on drug use and health.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders – fifth edition. Washington, DC: Author.