Depression could be lifted by Magic Mushrooms, according to new research

Support us and go ad-free

DISCLAIMER – We are not actually suggesting that you go out and pick, buy or consume magic mushrooms…

Magic mushrooms could be used to cure treatment-resistant depression according to trailblazing results obtained by a team at Imperial College London. Twelve patients in the pilot trial were administered psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, and eight of these had a reduction in symptoms a week after dosing, with seven of the eight being in remission from depression at this point.

These extraordinary results fly in the face of the commonly held belief that magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs are more likely to trigger mental illness than cure it. And it is a class A psychedelic drug after all so can it really have medical benefits?

Robin Carhart-Davis, lead scientist of the team, is trying to overturn these deeply embedded beliefs, by carrying out this initial study to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of using psilocybin, in the hope of carrying out larger trials to confirm the theory that psilocybin can successfully treat depression. Carhart-Davis also states in the paper, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, that:

Data obtained from large scale population studies have recently challenged the view that psychedelics negatively affect mental health

The team took extreme care in screening people suitable for the trial, excluding anyone with a history of drug dependance, psychosis or suicide attempts. Psychological support was also made available to the participants during the administration of psilocybin, and at any time following the trial. The participants had to take a dose of the drug strong enough to experience hallucinations. Carhart-Davis was reported in The Mirror to say of the experience for the trial participants:

These experiences with psilocybin can be incredibly profound.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Sometimes people have what they describe as mystical or spiritual-type experiences – that’s not uncommon, particularly with the high dose. So it’s important that we provide psychological support afterwards.

We didn’t see anything unexpected and the adverse effects were mostly things that we predicted and were relatively mild.

There is a huge and growing need for alternative treatments for depression. According to the Mental Health Network NHS Confederation 19% of adults in England reported that they had ever been diagnosed with depression in 2014. And it is estimated that by the year 2030, in the UK, there will be approximately two million more adults with mental health problems than there were in 2013. Also, an estimated 10% – 30% of patients do not respond to typical antidepressants, and these are the people psilocybin treatment is aimed at.

Professor David Nutt is a one time advisor to the government on the misuse of drugs and also a member of the psilocybin research team. He is highly critical of the government’s regulations on the use of psilocybin in research. Magic mushrooms were added to the Schedule One drugs list by the controversial clause 21 of the Drugs Act 2005. Nutt described the study as a “landmark” and said in The Mirror:

it cost £1,500 to dose each patient when in any sane world it might have cost £30… Because it’s [psilocybin] Schedule One, its subject to a whole panoply of regulations that make research almost impossible

Nutt thinks these obstacles to research into the therapeutic use of psilocybin could be lifted quickly if it was classified as a Schedule Two drug by the Home Secretary, which would enable prescription by doctors.

By three months after the trial, seven of the patients had maintained their reduction in symptoms, and five patients remained in remission, which is remarkable as spontaneous recovery is rare in people with treatment resistant depression.

The authors of the study are aware of the biases present in this small-scale study, particularly the possibility of placebo effect due to the large amount of psychological support given. They are keen to proceed to a larger double-blinded placebo-controlled trial which will counter these biases and hopefully confirm the initial trial’s findings.

However, this next crucial step might be the hardest to achieve with the exorbitant cost of trials for a Schedule One drug, which will be amplified by the fact that greater numbers of patients are needed as drug trials progress. It may be a long time before we see psilocybin making it on to the shelves of  our local pharmacies.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

A previous Canary article on research into the possible therapeutic applications of  psilocybin can be read here.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed