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Letter to the Editor: What Is in a Name? The Many Meanings of Psychedelic

O'Donnell, Kelley C.; Roberts, Daniel E; Ching, Terence H.W.; Glick, Gianni; Goldway, Noam; Gukasyan, Natalie; Hokansen, Jamila; Kelmendi, Benjamin; Ross, Stephen; Yaden, Mary E.; Pittenger,Christopher
ISSN: 2831-4425
CID: 5545112

Psilocybin for alcohol use disorder: Rationale and design considerations for a randomized controlled trial

O'Donnell, Kelley C; Mennenga, Sarah E; Owens, Lindsey; Podrebarac, Samantha K; Baron, Tara; Rotrosen, John; Ross, Stephen; Forcehimes, Alyssa A; Bogenschutz, Michael P
Several lines of evidence suggest that classic psychedelics (5-HT2A receptor agonists or partial agonists) such as psilocybin might facilitate behavior change in individuals with substance use disorders. We conducted a multi-site, double-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess the effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in alcohol-dependent volunteers. In addition to a structured 12-week psychotherapy platform, participants (n = 96) were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either oral psilocybin or an active placebo (oral diphenhydramine) in each of two dosing sessions (at weeks 4 and 8). Initial doses were 25 mg/70 kg psilocybin or 50 mg diphenhydramine, which could be increased in the second session depending on initial response. The psychotherapy platform combined evidence-based, manualized therapy for alcohol dependence with a supportive context for the dosing sessions. All participants were followed in the RCT through week 36. At the end of the RCT, participants who still met safety criteria were offered an open-label psilocybin session. Data collected at screening, baseline and throughout the study included: demographics, measures of alcohol use, subjective response to psilocybin and diphenhydramine, and safety measures. The primary outcome was the proportion of heavy drinking days during the 32 weeks after the first dosing session (i.e., between week 4 and week 36). Secondary outcomes included safety, additional measures of drinking (e.g., abstinence, drinking days, etc.), craving, self-efficacy, and acute effects. We will also explore moderators and mediators of the primary outcome. The primary outcomes will be published elsewhere. In this paper, we describe the protocol and rationale for our design decisions.
PMID: 36332827
ISSN: 1559-2030
CID: 5358872

Percentage of Heavy Drinking Days Following Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy vs Placebo in the Treatment of Adult Patients With Alcohol Use Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Bogenschutz, Michael P; Ross, Stephen; Bhatt, Snehal; Baron, Tara; Forcehimes, Alyssa A; Laska, Eugene; Mennenga, Sarah E; O'Donnell, Kelley; Owens, Lindsey T; Podrebarac, Samantha; Rotrosen, John; Tonigan, J Scott; Worth, Lindsay
Importance/UNASSIGNED:Although classic psychedelic medications have shown promise in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD), the efficacy of psilocybin remains unknown. Objective/UNASSIGNED:To evaluate whether 2 administrations of high-dose psilocybin improve the percentage of heavy drinking days in patients with AUD undergoing psychotherapy relative to outcomes observed with active placebo medication and psychotherapy. Design, Setting, and Participants/UNASSIGNED:In this double-blind randomized clinical trial, participants were offered 12 weeks of manualized psychotherapy and were randomly assigned to receive psilocybin vs diphenhydramine during 2 day-long medication sessions at weeks 4 and 8. Outcomes were assessed over the 32-week double-blind period following the first dose of study medication. The study was conducted at 2 academic centers in the US. Participants were recruited from the community between March 12, 2014, and March 19, 2020. Adults aged 25 to 65 years with a DSM-IV diagnosis of alcohol dependence and at least 4 heavy drinking days during the 30 days prior to screening were included. Exclusion criteria included major psychiatric and drug use disorders, hallucinogen use, medical conditions that contraindicated the study medications, use of exclusionary medications, and current treatment for AUD. Interventions/UNASSIGNED:Study medications were psilocybin, 25 mg/70 kg, vs diphenhydramine, 50 mg (first session), and psilocybin, 25-40 mg/70 kg, vs diphenhydramine, 50-100 mg (second session). Psychotherapy included motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Main Outcomes and Measures/UNASSIGNED:The primary outcome was percentage of heavy drinking days, assessed using a timeline followback interview, contrasted between groups over the 32-week period following the first administration of study medication using multivariate repeated-measures analysis of variance. Results/UNASSIGNED:A total of 95 participants (mean [SD] age, 46 [12] years; 42 [44.2%] female) were randomized (49 to psilocybin and 46 to diphenhydramine). One participant (1.1%) was American Indian/Alaska Native, 5 (5.3%) were Black, 16 (16.8%) were Hispanic, and 75 (78.9%) were non-Hispanic White. Of the 95 randomized participants, 93 received at least 1 dose of study medication and were included in the primary outcome analysis. Percentage of heavy drinking days during the 32-week double-blind period was 9.7% for the psilocybin group and 23.6% for the diphenhydramine group, a mean difference of 13.9%; (95% CI, 3.0-24.7; F1,86 = 6.43; P = .01). Mean daily alcohol consumption (number of standard drinks per day) was also lower in the psilocybin group. There were no serious adverse events among participants who received psilocybin. Conclusions and Relevance/UNASSIGNED:Psilocybin administered in combination with psychotherapy produced robust decreases in percentage of heavy drinking days over and above those produced by active placebo and psychotherapy. These results provide support for further study of psilocybin-assisted treatment for AUD. Trial Registration/ Identifier: NCT02061293.
PMID: 36001306
ISSN: 2168-6238
CID: 5331632

Spiritual experiences in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: Case reports of communion with the divine, the departed, and saints in research using psilocybin for the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Podrebarac, Samantha K.; O'Donnell, Kelley C.; Mennenga, Sarah E.; Owens, Lindsey T.; Malone, Tara C.; Duane, Jessie H.; Bogenschutz, Michael P.
Psychedelic substances have been central to religious and shamanic healing practices of various cultures for generations. More recently, in western medicine, psychedelic substances have demonstrated promise in the treatment of various mental health indications. A growing evidence base supports not only the therapeutic potential of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, but also the importance of integrating spiritual aspects of psychedelic experiences into the traditional therapeutic process. Psilocybin, a classic psychedelic, is a serotonergic hallucinogen that can elicit profound spiritual experiences even in the research setting. Our group is currently conducting a randomized controlled trial exploring the therapeutic potential of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol dependence. Over the course of the trial, many individuals have reported experiences that take a variety of forms, including spiritual insights, beatific visions, and communion with the Divine. Here we present three case studies of experiences involving communion with a deceased loved one, with a holy figure, and with the Divine from our clinical trial. These cases have been selected to illustrate the diverse nature of the spiritual experiences observed in this clinical trial, and to also explore elements of spiritual care that may be supportive in the psychotherapeutic process during and after the medication experiences. Should psychedelic medicine continue to show treatment promise in clinical trial stages, there is a strong possibility that these medicines will become an integral part of psychotherapy, which will require integration of direct spiritual experiences and spiritual care into the healing process. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)
ISSN: 2326-4500
CID: 5059352

Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial [Meeting Abstract]

O\Donnell, Kelley; Mennenga, Sarah; Podrebarac, Samantha; Owens, Lindsey; Malone, Tara; Rogers, Ursula; Bogenschutz, Michael
ISSN: 0893-133x
CID: 4729792

Psilocybin for depression: Considerations for clinical trial design

O'Donnell, Kelley C.; Mennenga, Sarah E.; Bogenschutz, Michael P.
Background and aims: Given the enormous global burden of depressive illness, there is an urgent need to develop novel and more effective treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD). Recent findings have suggested that psychedelic drugs may have a role in the treatment of depressive symptoms, and a number of groups are in the process of developing protocols to study this question systematically. Given the subjective quality of both the psychedelic experience and depressive symptomatology, great care must be taken when designing a protocol to study the clinical efficacy of psychedelic drugs. This study will discuss many factors to consider when designing a clinical trial of psilocybin for MDD. Methods: We provide a thorough review of pertinent research into antidepressant clinical trial methodology and review practical considerations that are relevant to the study of psychedelic-Assisted treatment for depression. Results: We discuss participant selection (including diagnostic accuracy, exclusion criteria, characteristics of the depressive episode, and the use of concurrent medications), study interventions (including dosing regimens, placebo selection, non-pharmacological components of treatment, and the importance of blinding), trial duration, outcome measures, and safety considerations. Conclusions: Careful and transparent study design and data analysis will maximize the likelihood of generating meaningful, reproducible results, and identifying a treatment-specific effect. Meeting the highest standards for contemporary trial design may also broaden the acceptance of psychedelic research in the scientific community at large.
ISSN: 2559-9283
CID: 5573162

Neurotoxicity of the Parkinson Disease-Associated Pesticide Ziram Is Synuclein-Dependent in Zebrafish Embryos

Lulla, Aaron; Barnhill, Lisa; Bitan, Gal; Ivanova, Magdalena I; Nguyen, Binh; O'Donnell, Kelley; Stahl, Mark C; Yamashiro, Chase; Klärner, Frank-Gerrit; Schrader, Thomas; Sagasti, Alvaro; Bronstein, Jeff M
BACKGROUND:Exposure to the commonly used dithiocarbamate (DTC) pesticides is associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson disease (PD), although the mechanisms by which they exert their toxicity are not completely understood. OBJECTIVE:We studied the mechanisms of ziram's (a DTC fungicide) neurotoxicity in vivo. METHODS:Zebrafish (ZF) embryos were utilized to determine ziram's effects on behavior, neuronal toxicity, and the role of synuclein in its toxicity. RESULTS:Nanomolar-range concentrations of ziram caused selective loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons and impaired swimming behavior. Because ziram increases α-synuclein (α-syn) concentrations in rat primary neuronal cultures, we investigated the effect of ziram on ZF γ-synuclein 1 (γ1). ZF express 3 synuclein isoforms, and ZF γ1 appears to be the closest functional homologue to α-syn. We found that recombinant ZF γ1 formed fibrils in vitro, and overexpression of ZF γ1 in ZF embryos led to the formation of neuronal aggregates and neurotoxicity in a manner similar to that of α-syn. Importantly, knockdown of ZF γ1 with morpholinos and disruption of oligomers with the molecular tweezer CLR01 prevented ziram's DA toxicity. CONCLUSIONS:These data show that ziram is selectively toxic to DA neurons in vivo, and this toxicity is synuclein-dependent. These findings have important implications for understanding the mechanisms by which pesticides may cause PD. Citation: Lulla A, Barnhill L, Bitan G, Ivanova MI, Nguyen B, O'Donnell K, Stahl MC, Yamashiro C, Klärner FG, Schrader T, Sagasti A, Bronstein JM. 2016. Neurotoxicity of the Parkinson disease-associated pesticide ziram is synuclein-dependent in zebrafish embryos. Environ Health Perspect 124:1766-1775;
PMID: 27301718
ISSN: 1552-9924
CID: 5606212