A woman said after work drinks in the TV industry kickstarted a decades-long alcohol addiction.
Kimberly said that getting breast cancer, which alcohol increases the risk of developing, was a "wake up call."
She took the chemical in "magic" mushrooms in a trial and hasn't had a drink since.
Happy hour drinks with co-workers kickstarted Kimberly's alcohol addiction, which lasted for more than two decades and ended after she took the psychoactive chemical found in "magic" mushrooms as part of a trial.
The 69-year-old from New Canaan, Connecticut — whose identity has been concealed for legal reasons— told Insider that getting breast cancer was the "ultimate wake up call" to try to quit for the first time. Even one drink a day increases the risk of the cancer, and consuming less may reduce that risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.
Kimberly said the cancer diagnosis was overwhelming because she believed it was "proof" that her alcohol addiction had damaged her body.
"I knew I had to take care of it once and for all," she said.
Following a friends' advice, Kimberly joined a trial at the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine that was testing whether psilocybin, a psychoactive chemical in "magic" mushrooms, could reduce the number of days participants drank heavily, defined as five or more drinks in a day for men and four or more drinks in a day for women. Kimberly was one of 93 people who took part.
Psilocybin is illegal in most countries, including the US, but researchers believe that it and other mind-altering substances like ketamine, may help disrupt thinking patterns in people with addiction when given alongside psychotherapy.
For Kimberly, more than 40 years after she had her first drink, everything changed in April 2018 after she took psilocybin and had 12 weeks of talk therapy in the trial.
Kimberly always knew she had a 'problem with alcohol'
Kimberly knew she had "a problem with alcohol" from the moment she first tried it, aged 14, at a slumber party in the Sixties. While the other girls drank small sips and got a little tipsy, Kimberly got so drunk the housekeeper had to chase her around the yard to get her back in the house.
Kimberly's parents were addicted to alcohol and she was afraid that she might be susceptible. So she stopped drinking after that party, until she went to college.
It was her first job as a TV producer in New York City, aged 21, where after work drinks were part of the culture, that led her down a slippery slope into an alcohol addiction. Over time, three glasses of Chardonnay during happy hour had become three glasses after work, plus a bottle to herself alone at home until she "dozed off."
"I guess that's a polite way of saying blacked out," she said.
Even after moving out of New York City and leaving the TV industry aged 36, her drinking continued and was "out of control" by age 44. She was drinking everyday — feeling guilty with each drink because there was "no such thing as moderation."
Kimberly felt weary, wasn't sleeping properly, and didn't enjoy doing the things that she used to, including work, though she said her performance never slipped.
Kimberly saw her drinking problem as a dark cloud
The trial involved two sessions where participants were either given psilocybin or a placebo, which was an antihistamine that the researchers believe could be mistaken for psilocybin. Due to the rules around the trial, Kimberly doesn't know if she took psilocybin in the first two sessions, although she thinks she did.
All participants were given psilocybin in a third session, provided it was safe for them to take it. She said the third session in April 2018 was when she had a life-changing experience.
Before taking the psilocybin pill in the trial, Kimberly held hands in a circle with two researchers, and stated what she wanted to get out of the 8-hour experience: "Address the drinking issue."
After taking the pill, she saw "wobbling" in her vision, and then lay down with an eye mask and listened to music, including a song called Sarvesham Svastir Bhavatu by Tina Turner.
At one point during her trip, she saw a TV cue card, similar to those used in the industry, that said: "Drinking."
She sat up and said: "All the portals are open. What is it you want me to know?"
Kimberly then visualized a staircase with a door at the top.
She saw clouds above her which were "oppressive," and her mind told her that those clouds represented alcohol, and she should walk up the stairs, open the door, and "go into the light."
In her vision, Kimberly did this, and had a conversation with herself, where she decided to never drink again.
The profound experience reset her brain
Kimberly said the experience reset her brain and she hasn't had a drink nor craving since, which her family said was "miraculous."
"All interest in alcohol dissolved," she said.
Kimberly wasn't the only one to find benefits from psilocybin. Participants in the trial who took two doses of psilocybin had fewer heavy drinking days than those who took a placebo during the 32 week trial period.
Kimberly now works for a social services agency back in New York City, and her cancer is in remission. She would like yearly controlled psilocybin sessions to "fine-tune," but still benefits from her experiences — like requesting the same Tina Turner song during a gynecological biopsy to help her relax.
She recommends others with alcohol problems consider trying psilocybin in controlled trials.
"Try it. You don't have to struggle that hard," she said.
The treatment isn't approved by regulators so doctors can't prescribe it, but it is set to undergo further trials starting in early 2023.
Read the original article on Insider