A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows promising results for using psilocybin, a natural anesthetic chemical found in some types of mushrooms, to treat depression.
The researchers randomly divided adults with treatment-resistant depression into groups. They gave them a single dose of psilocybin in different doses (25 mg, 10 mg, 1 mg), along with psychological support.
A total of 79 participants were in the 25 mg group, 75 in the 10 mg group, and 79 in the 1 mg group. The researchers found that taking psilocybin in a single 25 mg dose, but not 10 mg, significantly reduced depression scores more than the 1 mg dose over three weeks, but was associated with adverse effects, such as headache, nausea, and dizziness.
The researchers note that this study is a good starting point. However, more comprehensive and longer trials, including comparisons with current treatments, are required to determine the efficacy and safety of psilocybin for depression.
Professor Andrew McIntosh, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, and a member of the MQ Mental Health Research Science Council, said:
This new trial greatly improves our understanding of whether psilocybin can help people with depression when conventional treatments have failed. The study appears to be well conducted and indicates that after 3 weeks of giving subjects a single 25 mg dose of psilocybin, they had lower levels of depressive symptoms than subjects treated with lower doses (1 mg or 10 mg).
“Participants were not asked if they could guess whether they were in the study arm that received the higher dose of the drug. This is important, because psilocybin is associated with euphoria and changes in perception that may reveal that they are in a higher ‘active’ dose or treatment arm. : People who believe they are in a higher-dose treatment group are likely to report treatment benefits, regardless of whether the intervention works, undermining the double-blind design.
“However, this study is an advance of previously published work in smaller numbers of subjects reporting efficacy based on measures of depression that were not intended to be the main measure of treatment benefit. It is the strongest evidence to date indicating that more, longer randomized trials of drugs It is justified and that psilocybin may (one day) provide a potential alternative to antidepressants that have been prescribed for decades.”
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