Psilocybin, a psychedelic chemical found in so-called magic mushrooms, may help treat depression in some patients. new study found. The researchers said a single dose of 25 mg of the synthetic psilocybin preparation significantly reduced patients’ depression scores – but was associated with adverse side effects.

For a peer-reviewed study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned adults with treatment-resistant depression a single dose of psilocybin. Patients with refractory depression have tried several different medications for depression before, but none have worked, Dr. Steve Levine told CBS News. Levine is the senior vice president of patient access and medical affairs for the psychiatric care company Compass Pathways, where he works closely with lead author of the study, Dr. Guy Goodwin.

In the study, participants received a dose of 25 mg, 10 mg or 1 mg as a control group. They also received psychological support. Levine said all patients took their doses in the presence of a therapist.

Three weeks later, researchers rated patients’ depression using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), a common test used to assess depression by a physician that ranges from 0 to 60. They found that those given 25 mg of psilocybin decreased by an average of 12 points on the scale. Those given 10 mg dropped 7.9 points and the control group 1 mg dropped 5.4 points.

Freshly picked magic mushrooms reclassified as a Class A drug in the UK
Scientists have tested a synthetic version of psilocybin, a psychedelic ingredient found in so-called magic mushrooms.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images


Taking a 25 mg dose of psilocybin results in a psychedelic experience, Levine said.

“Patients don’t take it at home, but in a supervised medical setting, in a room specifically designed to be therapeutic and supportive,” he said. “They lie down, wear and cover their eyes, listen to a curated playlist of music. And most importantly, they are present all the time. “

The session lasted six to eight hours, and the therapist was there to support the patient and talk to him later, Levine said.

Levine said all patients only took one dose in the study.

“I wouldn’t say that this is not shocking, but it is remarkable because whatever other treatments for depression are available, most of them are medications that need to be taken daily and sometimes multiple times a day,” he said.

“It’s really unprecedented in the sense that it was only one administration,” added Levine. “That doesn’t mean we think it will cure. We believe our treatment is likely to be used on an occasional basis. “

While the 25 mg group showed some remission of depression after three weeks, the results were not sustained after 12 weeks.

Out of 233 participants, 179 showed side effects including headache, nausea, and dizziness. Suicidal ideation or behavior or self harm occurred in all dose groups, which is common according to Levine, especially since all patients had treatment-resistant depression.

“The findings are both intriguing and sobering,” wrote Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, in editorial published in the same issue of the journal.

Madras, who was not involved in the study, raised numerous concerns about the potential risks of medical use of psilocybin, but noted, “Nevertheless, it is provocative that these dr*gs show some short-term benefits for depression in selected populations.”


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She called her latest study “the most rigorous and well-conducted phase 2 clinical trial” conducted to date on the use of psilocybin in the treatment of depression.

Levine said they are now in a Phase 3 study where they are further testing the 25 mg dose. He said that if the drug ever becomes a regulated drug, it is likely to be administered in the same way as a study – in a medical setting where the patient is monitored by a specialized therapist at all times.

Oregon has already passed a law that decriminalizes psilocybin. Colorado may become the next state to this end, with the initiative to authorize the regulated use of the drug in the vote in the mid-term elections this month. The Colorado agent also proposes adding other plant-based psychedelic dr*gs to its program, including dimethyltryptamine, commonly known as DMT.

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