Dr Albert Garcia-Romeu

Albert Garcia-Romeu, Ph.D. is a member of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he studies the effects of psychedelic drugs in humans with a focus on psilocybin as an aid in the treatment of addiction. He received his doctorate in psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA where he researched self-transcendence, meditation, and their relationship to mental health. His current research interests include clinical interventions involving psychedelics and mindfulness for mood and substance use disorders, and further exploration of the biological underpinnings and spiritual significance of altered states of consciousness.

Psychedelics as change agents in addiction and mood disorders

Research on psychedelics has generated renewed interest over the past decade. Recent pilot studies have shown safety and feasibility of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic, as a therapeutic tool for treating mood and substance use disorders, including tobacco and alcohol addiction. Findings from laboratory research indicate that psychedelics, when administered in a supportive setting, can occasion profound changes in mood, behaviors, and attitudes consistent with enhanced health and well-being. In combination with structured treatment, these substances have the potential to confer long-lasting benefits to carefully screened and well prepared individuals, with limited adverse effects. Preliminary evidence indicates that mystical-type drug effects may be associated with therapeutic outcomes in psilocybin-facilitated addiction treatment, consistent with earlier researchers’ assertions that the subjective effects of psychedelics play a pivotal role in mediating persisting positive drug effects. Psychological insight, changes in personality, changes in beliefs and values, increased motivation, and enhanced self-efficacy are among the factors hypothesized to contribute to efficacy of psychedelic-facilitated treatments. Novel neuroimaging data as well as qualitative investigations have provided additional insights into the potential therapeutic mechanisms of psychedelics. This discussion will focus on contemporary clinical research with psilocybin, and present key methodological issues in working with psychedelics, as well as highlighting important clinical considerations in studying psychedelics as a therapeutic tool.

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