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Engineering Safer Psychedelics for Treating Addiction


Addiction is best described as a disorder of maladaptive neuroplasticity involving the simultaneous strengthening of reward circuitry that drives compulsive drug seeking and weakening of circuits involved in executive control over harmful behaviors. Psychedelics have shown great promise for treating addiction, with many people attributing their therapeutic effects to insights gained while under the influence of the drug. However, psychedelics are also potent psychoplastogens-molecules capable of rapidly re-wiring the adult brain. The advent of non-hallucinogenic psychoplastogens with anti-addictive properties raises the intriguing possibility that hallucinations might not be necessary for all therapeutic effects of psychedelic-based medicines, so long as the underlying pathological neural circuitry can be remedied. One of these non-hallucinogenic psychoplastogens, tabernanthalog (TBG), appears to have long-lasting therapeutic effects in preclinical models relevant to alcohol and opioid addiction. Here, we discuss the implications of these results for the development of addiction treatments, as well as the next steps for advancing TBG and related non-hallucinogenic psychoplastogens as addiction therapeutics.

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