Magic mushroom compound holds promise for depression

Friday, 06 November, 2020

Magic mushroom compound holds promise for depression

The active compound in magic mushrooms — psilocybin — has been found to produce large, rapid and sustained improvements in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD), according to a small study conducted at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The 27 patients eligible to participate in the trial underwent two sessions of psilocybin therapy combined with supportive psychotherapy. Participants were split into two groups, one of which received treatment immediately, while the other received treatment after an eight-week delay. This allowed the researchers to compare similar groups of patients, and see if the immediate treatment group improved compared with the delayed treatment group.

The results of the study are published in JAMA Psychiatry.

After the psilocybin session, 67% (16) of participants at week one and 71% (17) of participants at week four had a clinically significant response to the intervention, with ≥50% reduction in GRID-HAMD score (0–7: no depression; 8–16: mild depression; 17–23: moderate depression; ≥24: severe depression).

At week one and four, 58% (14) and 54% (13) of participants, respectively, met the criteria for remission of depression (≤7 GRID-HAMD score).

Overall, more than two in three patients showed improvements four weeks after their sessions ended, and more than half were in remission at the four-week point.

The study authors commented that although the rapid antidepressant effects of psilocybin are similar to those reported with ketamine — also being studied for the treatment of severe and treatment-resistant depression — the response to psilocybin therapy persisted for at least four weeks (ketamine effects typically last for a few days to two weeks).

The authors explained that the results obtained in this trial were 2.5 times greater than the effect sizes found with psychotherapy studies and four times greater than those in studies of psychopharmacological treatment for depression.

“Further studies are needed with active treatment or placebo controls and in larger and more diverse populations,” the authors said.

Image credit: © Plechaty

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