A synthetic psychedelic substance known as 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) reduces alcohol consumption in mice, according to new research published in Psychopharmacology. The findings could potentially lead to new treatment options for alcoholism.

“Alcohol use disorder is one of the most devastating psychiatric diseases. It is responsible for untold human suffering and costs society billions of dollars. There is increasing hope that specialized therapy conducted with psychedelic drugs, under controlled and carefully designed conditions, may help people abstain from alcohol and provide meaningful remission rates,” explained study author Kevin S. Murnane, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Mercer University.

In the study, male mice were exposed to alcohol and then split into a high drinking group and a low drinking group based on their consumption habits. The mice were then injected with a single dose of DOI or a placebo solution.

The researchers found that the psychedelic drug led to reductions in alcohol consumption in high alcohol drinking subjects. Mice injected with DOI also showed reductions in alcohol-induced place conditioning, a common measure of drug reward in animals. But DOI had no effect on overall fluid intake.

The results show that “a psychedelic drug was effective in reducing alcohol drinking in laboratory animals. This supports the idea that psychedelics may be effective in humans suffering from alcohol use disorder,” Murnane told PsyPost.

The researchers also found that the effects of DOI on alcohol consumption were largely reversed when mice were given another drug that selectively blocks serotonin A2 receptors.

While preclinical animal models are an important starting point, there is still much to learn about the relationship between psychedelic drugs and alcohol consumption.

“We must temper our enthusiasm because much additional research needs to be conducted. In particular, studies should be conducted that determine the mechanisms by which psychedelics reduce alcohol drinking. Understanding these mechanisms will allow scientists and clinicians to make psychedelics therapy as safe and effective as possible,” Murnane said.

The study, “Effects of the synthetic psychedelic 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) on ethanol consumption and place conditioning in male mice“, was authored by Aboagyewaah Oppong-Damoah, Kristen E. Curry, Bruce E. Blough, Kenner C. Rice, and Kevin S. Murnane.