A couple of doses of a psychedelics may treat depression as well as one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. A small and short study published shows.
A Phase 2 clinical trial, was the first randomized trial to compare therapeutic doses of psilocybin. The psychedelics compound found in so-called magic mushrooms to treat depression. The results were released in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is huge because it’s showing that psilocybin is at least better than the gold standard psychedelics treatment for depression. ” said Roland Griffiths, director of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University.
Research on how psychedelics can be used to treat mental health conditions is still in its early stages. And much more will be needed to determine whether psychedelics, are an effective long-term treatment. It’s also still unclear how treatment involving psychedelics would be used in the real world.
The small six-week trial included 59 adults. Nearly 40 percent of whom had been taking medication to treat their depression. Thirty participants received two 25 mg doses of psilocybin three weeks apart. The remaining 29 were also given psilocybin during two visits but such a small amount. The second group also took a daily dose of escitalopram. The generic version of the antidepressant Lexapro — a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.
Multiple psychedelics drugs for depression, multiple benefits
Just what can the drugs do? A single treatment with psilocybin shows to relieve crippling anxiety in people with terminal cancer. The drug also shows to be an effective therapy for substance use disorders. MDMA can provide valuable help to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants in both groups were given the psilocybin dose in a clinician’s office where they were monitored.
At the end of the six weeks, four measures of psychedelics for depression to determine whether symptoms had improved. Two questionnaires filled out by the participants and two evaluations from the clinicians.
All but one, people who took psilocybin reported greater improvement in depressive symptoms than those who took Lexapro. The QIDS-SR-16 results, which is depression measurement method the researchers report they would focus on before starting the trial. So this shows that psilocybin was as effective as escitalopram. (Before beginning a study, researchers must outline what measures they plan to evaluate.)
Psychedelic drugs fall into one of two categories depending on how they affect the brain. Classic psychedelics include LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca. They work by binding to the same receptors in the brain as serotonin.
“It is surprising to us that psilocybin performs as well as it did. ” said lead researcher Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. Psychedelics treatment for depression won’t be available for just anyone, and recreational psychedelic use may still be banned.
Carhart-Harris and his team said they weren’t able to measure the long-term effects. Which takes longer to start working and might not have reached its full therapeutic potential during the six-week trial.
The researchers kept the trial relatively short because some volunteers had to come off their current depression treatments to participate. To look at longer-term effects, his team plans to collect data from the participants at the six-month mark.
Some outside experts also pointed out limitations of the study. It didn’t include a control group of people who received no treatment, and the cohort was 66 percent men. Even though women in the real world are more likely to experience depression. It’s also difficult to make a study involving psychedelics truly blind. As patients might be able to guess which group they are in. This is based on whether they experience noticeable effects of the higher dose of psilocybin.
Findings for using psychedelics for treatment of depression
But the findings do add suggesting that psychedelic drugs could be used in clinical settings to treat depression. As a result that they are likely to have lasting effects. Stigmatized drugs like psychedelic mushrooms and MDMA are key to treatment for conditions like depression.
Alan Davis, says the trial shows that there may be depression treatments to help people reach remission without daily medication. And the cost and side effects that come with it. “To me, that represents a breakthrough,” he said.
However, scientists still don’t understand exactly how those medications — or psychedelics — work on symptoms of depression.
“The receptors SSRIs work on seem to inhibit responses in the brain, particularly stress responses. And we think that takes the edge off so you can tolerate stress better,” Carhart-Harris said. “With psychedelics, it’s almost the opposite. It’s almost like a brutal confrontation with the root of your suffering. Which can allow people to better understand where their depression stems from.”
Griffiths expected to see a lot more variability in the outcomes of psilocybin research than there has been so far. Most research has shown that psilocybin have a positive effect on depressive symptoms. Another small clinical trial, for example, finds that more than 70 percent of participants report ease with their depression. This is within a week as a result of having taken two comparable doses of psilocybin. And more than half were in remission within four weeks. Psychedelics for depression should be a must consider in the society today
“People ask me what I believe, and my answer is I believe in the data,” Griffiths said. “Psilocybin therapy is not going to be effective for everyone. we are still at a very early stage of understanding. But there is no question that there is something very real to it.”