Study: A Magic Mushroom Ingredient Can Treat Depression

A significant study suggests that a naturally occurring hallucinogenic substance included in “magic mushrooms” can aid in the treatment of depression.

The second phase of a significant study on the use of the hallucinogen psilocybin, a psychedelic substance found in several species of psilocybe mushrooms also known as “magic mushrooms,” as a treatment for depression revealed once more that it is effective for many people and that the higher the dose, the more potent it was.

According to University of Edinburgh biological psychiatry professor Andrew McIntosh, MD, the research, which was published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, offered “the best evidence thus far to suggest that further, larger and longer randomised studies of psychedelics are justified.” In the future, psilocybin might offer a viable substitute for the antidepressants that have been prescribed for years.

The authors of the study pointed out that studies involving cancer patients were where psilocybin’s antidepressant properties were originally discovered. Since the majority of conventional medications for depression only work for a small percentage of patients, psilocybin research is closely followed by mental health experts who want to assist those with treatment-resistant depression.

In reaction to the study, Bertha K. Madras, PhD, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, commented, “The findings are both intriguing and frightening.”

In phase II of the investigation, several psilocybin dosages were examined. The 233 participants in Phase II were randomly randomised to receive a dose of 1 milligramme, 10 milligrammes, or 25 milligrammes. (The study made use of COMP360, a pharmaceutical-grade synthetic psilocybin formulation.)

Participants met with a qualified therapist for up to 8 hours on the day they received the medicine until the symptoms subsided. Throughout the 12-week research period that followed treatment, they also saw their therapists.

Some medical specialists are doubtful that the substance can be used as a standard treatment because of its possibly harmful side effects, even after spending numerous hours with a therapist in an environment akin to a living room following treatment.

Psilocybin can alleviate depressed symptoms, according to the study, although fewer patients were helped by the drug than in comparable-sized trials for other antidepressants, according to Madras. Depending on dosage, up to 84% of participants in this most recent psilocybin trial had adverse effects, with a small number of them “expressing suicidal ideation or self-injurious conduct,” she added.

To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, the study’s authors stated that “longer and larger trials, including comparison with existing therapies for depression, are required.”

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