Psilocybin, the psychedelic magic mushrooms compound, may one day be an effective treatment for patients with severe depression who can not recover the use of other therapies, scientists said Tuesday.
A small-scale pilot the use of psilocybin in cases of treatment-resistant depression showed it was safe and effective, according to British researchers study.
Of the 12 patients who received the drug, all showed some reduction in symptoms of depression for at least three weeks. Seven continued to show a positive response at three months. Five remained in remission beyond three months.
Robin Carhart-Harris, who led the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said the findings, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, were surprising.
Many patients describe a profound experience, he said, and appeared to undergo a change in the way they perceive the world.
“But we must not get carried away by these results,” he told reporters at a conference in London. “This is not a magic bullet. We are learning to do this treatment.”
magic mushrooms grow worldwide and have been used since ancient times, both for recreation and for religious rites.
British researchers led by David Nutt, professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial, have been exploring the potential of psilocybin to relieve severe forms of depression in people who do not respond to other treatments.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression, a common mental disorder characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, sleep disorders and appetite, and lack of concentration.
Many patients respond to treatment with antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, but about 20 percent do not improve and are classified as having treatment-resistant depression.
Psilocybin it is acting on the serotonin system, suggesting that could be developed for the treatment of depression. But hallucinogenic drugs can also cause unpleasant reactions, including anxiety and paranoia, so Nutt’s team wanted to find out if psilocybin can manage safely.
The trial included six men and six women, aged between 30 and 64, all diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. They went through a full screening process before they are allowed to participate and they were fully supported before, during and after they received psilocybin.
Patients received capsules of psilocybin for two dosing sessions seven days apart.
blood pressure, heart rate and intensity of the subjective perception of the effects of psilocybin were monitored during each session, and patients were seen by a psychiatrist the next day and one, two, three and five weeks after the second dose.
Carhart-Harris said no serious side effects were reported during the study, despite all the volunteers said they were a little nervous before and during the initial administration of the drug.
“Psychedelic drugs have potent physiological effects and are only given in our research, that adequate safeguards are in place,” he said.
“I would not want members of the public thought that can treat their own depressions choosing their own magic mushrooms. Such an approach could be risky.”
Nutt said the results showed that psilocybin “is safe and fast-acting, so you can – if managed carefully -. Have value for these patients”