Belgium explores use of magic mushrooms to combat alcohol addiction

The first study into the use of psilocybin in Belgium is under way after two years of talks with authorities to get the necessary licences. The aim is to find out whether it is possible to use the substance to tackle certain cases of addiction.

Brussels' Brugmann Hospital is running the clinical trial. A total of 62 people aged between 21 and 64 will be treated with the substance over the next two years, in low or high doses, to gain insight into the effects of psilocybin in this type of treatment. The idea is that the substances studied could then be used in therapeutic doses for future psychiatric treatments. 

Psilocybin is the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms and is still an illegal substance, though it’s increasingly studied globally for its possible therapeutic use. Psychedelics are thought to help with mental health conditions and the relief of physical health conditions, among other things. In Australia and Switzerland, psilocybin and some other psychedelics have been legalised under specific contexts. 

Bruggman Hospital's research is the first of its kind in Belgium. Psychotropic substances are still considered illegal narcotics and research into treatments based on them is rare. It took the hospital two years to get the necessary permits to import, stockpile and administer psilocybin. 

Five people have participated in the study since its launch in March.


Magic mushrooms © PHOTO ROBYN BECK / AFP

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