New Psychedelic-Assisted Clinical Trial for Alcohol Use Disorder at PNI


Since the late 1990s, there has been considerable renewed scientific interest in psychedelic-assisted therapies to treat mental health conditions including addiction, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. At Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI), we have launched our first psychedelic-assisted clinical trial for patients with alcohol use disorder.

The Visual Healing® study tests incorporating a nature-themed immersive video experience into psilocybin-assisted therapy. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is provided as capsules by Usona Institute and is considered non-addictive.

Our Treatment & Research In Psychedelics (TRIP) program explores how altered states of consciousness can be harnessed to change behavior and improve brain health. TRIP program director and addiction medicine specialist, Keith Heinzerling, MD, is the principal investigator.

Psilocybin-assisted therapy shows promise for treating alcohol use disorder, but studies suggest that patients with alcohol problems may be less likely to achieve a mystical experience with a standard psilocybin dose.

Feeling more connected with nature is a common element of a psychedelic mystical experience. Our pilot study tests whether adding beautiful nature-themed Visual Healing® videos provided by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg to the start of the psychedelic session as the medicine begins to take effect may facilitate reaching a mystical experience. Results may help us optimize treatment without increasing the psilocybin dose and understand the potential beneficial role of nature-connectedness.

Participants who achieve a mystical experience are more likely to have a long-term change in behavior, so the patient’s mindset and the journey setting are critical. The novel Visual Healing® approach and pre-journey counseling aim to optimize set and setting and ultimately help participants stop drinking.

Preparation sessions are followed by a medically supervised four–five hour psilocybin journey in the peaceful PNI TRIP room setting, with follow-up integration sessions. These sessions are crucial, allowing participants to address and, hopefully, resolve longstanding alcohol use-related issues.


By Dr. Daniel Kelly

Dr. Kelly is founder and director of Pacific Neuroscience Institute, and co-investigator of the Visual Healing® study. Go to PacificTRIP.org or call 310-861-4541 for more details.

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