Can “magic mushrooms” treat depression?
“Magic mushrooms,” or more specifically the psychedelic compound called psilocybin, has the potential to treat people with depression, according to a small study.
A powerful hallucinogen, psilocybin can cause euphoria, hallucinations and spiritual experiences. The chemical compounds in this drug are very different and work more quickly than previous antidepressants, according to the research.
The new study involved 12 people, with relative to severe depression, who have been resilient to treatment. All participants were given the compound psilocybin. Three months after the treatment, seven patients had lessened their symptoms of depression, according to the experts, led by Dr. Robin Carhart Harris of Imperial College London, in England.
One in five patients with depression do not respond to treatments such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy, the researchers said.
“The results are encouraging, and we now need larger trials to understand whether the effects we saw in this study translate into long-term benefits, and to study how psilocybin compares to other current treatments,” the lead author Dr. Carhart Harris said, in a press release. “There were no serious side effects found.”
“Psilocybin targets the serotonin receptors in the brain, just as most antidepressants do; psilocybin’s effect is significantly more potent. That is not always good,” says Dr. Chandragupta Vedak, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “I would be cautious, as this is a small, open label study.”
Dr. Carhart Harris agreed. “Psilocybin is still a potent psychedelic compound and can have unwanted side effects,” he said. “Patients should interpret these results with caution until more studies are conducted.”
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