Magic Mushroom Psychedelic relieves severe depression in largest trial yet: ScienceAlert

For several years now, scientists have been researching how psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, can alleviate symptoms of depression.

More evidence for the connection has arrived with a double-blind phase 2 trial involving 233 participants, the largest study on this topic conducted so far in terms of sample size.

All of the volunteers had treatment-resistant depression, meaning that at least two antidepressant treatments had not worked to relieve major depressive disorder.

Led by mental health company COMPASS Pathways, the clinical trials lasted 12 weeks and took place at 22 sites in 10 different countries in Europe and North America.

For the purpose of the study, the participants were divided into three groups. One group received a single 25 mg dose of a synthetic form of psilocybin called COMP360, modeled after the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, a second group received 10 mg, and the final group (acting as a control) received 1 mg. None of the volunteers knew which dose they received.

“This study, which is by far the largest clinical trial of the use of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, showed that a single 25 mg dose of psilocybin reduced the severity of participants’ symptoms compared with a 1 mg control dose. ” says psychiatrist James Rucker, from King’s College London in the UK.

However, there was no significant difference between the 10 mg group and the 1 mg group.

It wasn’t all good news, though. In the 25 mg group, 84 percent of volunteers reported side effects such as headache, nausea and dizziness three months after taking the drug, while a handful experienced more serious side effects, including two who reported self-harm and two who reported suicide. ideation.

Fewer participants in the other two groups expressed similar experiences, with about three-quarters in each also describing less severe effects. Only one percent of those who received 1 mg of COMP360 experienced the most serious side effects.

The researchers note that future studies should be cautious in light of side effects, although they are confident that the subjects’ progress was positive.

Psilocybin was administered in special rooms designed to put participants at ease, and a therapist was present until the psychedelic effects wore off and subjects were allowed to leave (which took between six and eight hours).

In subsequent weeks, the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale was used to assess any change in the subjects’ depressive symptoms. The questions the scale uses cover mood, tension, sleep and appetite.

“These findings are a positive step in the right direction,” says Rucker. “Our task now is to investigate psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression in larger trials with more participants, comparing it to both placebo and standard treatments.”

Researchers are now ready to move on to a phase 3 trial where psilocybin will be compared with the best treatments currently available for depression. This will tell us more about whether this magical mushroom compound is ready to be used at scale.

Researchers suspect that psilocybin’s hallucinogenic properties change the brain’s connectivity in some way, though exactly how this happens is not yet clear. Previous studies have also shown that the compound psilocybin could be effective in treating alcohol addiction.

Another added benefit from this study was the opportunity to improve how psilocybin treatments are given to patients, with guidelines drawn up for therapists to help them manage initial hallucinations and other effects of the drug.

“As part of the training programme, a treatment manual was developed to enable standardization of psychological support across sites and therapists around the world,” says psychologist Nadav Liam Modlin, from King’s College London.

The research has been published in New England Journal of Medicine.

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