Queen’s, KHSC launch clinical trial of psilocybin therapy to treat alcohol use disorder

Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms.’ Photo via Queen’s University.

Clinical trials will soon get underway for researchers at Queen’s University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) to study the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD). The Phase 2b clinical trial, sponsored by Clairvoyant Therapeutics, will assess whether motivational enhancement therapy and the use of psilocybin can help those living with the disorder.

“One in five Canadian adults will suffer from alcohol use disorder at one point during their lifetimes, and we still struggle to find the best way to help them with the resources we currently have in the health care system,” said Queen’s psychiatry professor Dr. Claudio Soares, the lead researcher for the study in Kingston and the chair of the Psychedelic Science Advisory Committee for the Dimensions Health Research Collaborative. “As clinicians and researchers, we have a responsibility to stretch the boundaries in the pursuit of new and better ways to treat this medical disorder, and psychedelics are part of the emerging treatment options.”

Psilocybin is a naturally-occurring molecule found in some species of mushrooms, which can induce an altered state of consciousness. According to a joint press release from Queen’s University and KHSC, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is currently being studied as a novel form of treatment for a range of medical conditions, including depression and AUD. Researchers will be studying whether this form of therapy can help change the negative patterns and behaviours associated with mental health and addictions.

“The opportunity for KHSC to be a clinical site for this study is very exciting, as psychedelic-assisted therapy has tremendous potential but requires a critical, evidence-based scientific approach to truly assess the positive impacts and any adverse consequences,” said Dr. Steven Smith, Vice President of Health Sciences Research at KHSC and President and CEO of the Kingston General Health Research Institute (KGHRI). “This study is another example of the outstanding collaborative research eco-system involving KHSC, the KGHRI, and Queen’s University. We look forward to making significant research contributions in psychedelic medicine.”

Kingston will join six other sites in Canada and Europe that are already recruiting patients for the clinical trial, which will take place at KHSC. According to the release, the initial goal is to recruit 10 patients from Kingston and surrounding communities. Patient recruitment will take place this spring with the clinical trial expected to launch by May 2023. Those interested in learning more about the study and its eligibility criteria may contact Dr. Soares’s research group via email at [email protected].

“The Clairvoyant team is excited to have Queen’s University and KHSC as a key clinical site for our psilocybin AUD trial,” said Damian Kettlewell, CEO of Clairvoyant. “Recently reported data from a related psilocybin trial for AUD has demonstrated a significant response to treatment. Our goal is to build on this research in Clairvoyant’s Phase 2 randomized controlled trial, which we hope will support clinical approval of psilocybin for the treatment of AUD in Canada and other countries.”

In June 2021, the university announced they were embarking on building a research collaborative to study the efficacy and use of psychedelic drugs on people dealing with serious illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and severe depression.

At that time, the research collaborative, led by David Clements, Executive Director of Psychedelic Research at the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences, was in its initial stages of gathering research and studies from all over the world. Clements is also involved in the new psilocybin AUD trial.

“Queen’s University is working hard to build partnerships to help advance global knowledge about whether psychedelic-assisted therapies can offer advantages in the treatment of various health conditions,” said Clements, who also serves as Executive Director of Dimensions Health Research Collaborative. “Our mission is to support high-quality, well-designed research that could lead to significant breakthroughs.”

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