• Can Magic Mushrooms Help with Depression?

Microscopy & Microtechniques

Can Magic Mushrooms Help with Depression?

Jan 10 2020

Following the completion of a recent phase 1 clinical trial, a team of scientists from King's College London have confirmed the safety credentials of a magic mushroom compound that could be used to treat depression. Working in conjunction with mental healthcare company COMPASS Pathways, the team explored the safety and side effects of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound that induces the "magical" experiences associated with certain mushroom varieties.

No adverse effects linked to psilocybin

As a phase 1 clinical trial the focus was on safety, with the team concluding psilocybin produces no adverse effects. The study involved almost 90 healthy volunteers divided into three groups. The first group received 10 milligrams of psilocybin, the second received 25 milligrams and the third were given a placebo. While participants who received psilocybin experienced changes in sensory perception and mood, none reported any adverse effects on emotional state or cognitive function. While there are still many challenges to overcome, the positive results suggest psilocybin could emerge as an effective treatment for some types of depression.

The findings were presented at the 58th annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), with the researchers championing psilocybin as a potential solution for treatment-resistant depression. Other studies suggest psilocybin could be an effective treatment for managing addictions to alcohol and cigarettes.

Mushrooms and mental health

"This is the largest controlled study of psilocybin to date," says Dr James Rucker, a psychiatrist and senior clinical lecturer in psychopharmacology at King's College London and lead investigator of the study. "The results of the study are clinically reassuring and support further development of psilocybin as a treatment for patients with mental health problems that haven't improved with conventional therapy, such as treatment-resistant depression."

Dr Ekaterina Malievskaia, co-founder at COMPASS Pathways says the study is about capturing the power of nature and delivering the benefits to those who need it most. “We are focused on getting psilocybin therapy safely to as many patients who would benefit from it as possible," she says. "We are grateful to the many pioneering research institutions whose work over the years has helped to demonstrate the potential of psilocybin in medicine."

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