Collaboration with Prof Roland Griffiths & Dr Matthew Johnson

An early Beckley-sponsored pilot trial was the first in modern times to investigate the efficacy of psilocybin as an aid to psychotherapy in overcoming nicotine addiction. The results were extremely promising, with 80% of participants still abstinent at 6-month follow-up – an unprecedented success rate. A second, larger trial with a brain-imaging component to investigate the neurobiological effects of this approach is currently underway.

So far, the research has shown that psilocybin, administered within a structured 15-week smoking cessation treatment protocol, has highly promising efficacy. The intervention was extremely successful, with 12 of 15 participants (80%) still abstinent at 6 month follow-up. This is a substantially higher percentage than for any other behavioural or pharmaceutical intervention. Although the study was open-label (subjects knew they were getting psilocybin), it demonstrates the potential of psilocybin as an addition to smoking cessation programmes.

Now, thanks to a grant from the US federal government – the first such grant for psychedelic therapy research in over 50 years –  the team at Johns Hopkins are building on this work in order to lead a three-year, multisite study with the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama.

Research Team and Institution

The Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. A founding member of the American Association of Universities, Johns Hopkins has been considered one of the world’s top universities throughout its history. The University stands among the top 10 in US News’ Best National Universities Rankings, and top 20 on a number of international league tables. Over the course of almost 140 years, it has produced 36 Nobel laureates.

Prof Roland Griffiths is a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research focus is on the behavioural and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. In 1999 he initiated a research programme investigating the effects of psilocybin, including mystical-type experiences, psilocybin-facilitated treatment of psychological distress and smoking cessation, and effects of psilocybin on meditation. He is currently a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence for the World Health Organization.

Dr Matthew Johnson is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For 18 years he has conducted research in psychopharmacology and addictions, and for >10 years he has conducted human research with psychedelics. Dr Johnson has conducted human studies with psilocybin, dextromethorphan, salvinorin A, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, caffeine, GHB, alcohol, triazolam, and ramelteon. Current research with psilocybin is examining its potential for facilitating behaviour change.

Media Coverage

Read the reports about the study in the Guardian, Time, BBC, and watch TEDMED talk by Roland Griffiths  

Our published studies

Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation

The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2016

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Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction

Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2014

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Psilocybin-Occasioned Mystical Experiences in the Treatment of Tobacco Addiction

Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2014

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