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Can magic mushrooms help treat depression?

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For years, people have been warned about the evils and dangers of doing drugs. But does magic mushrooms hold the cure for depression?

A recent phase clinical test has assessed the safety of psilocybin, that’s the stuff that makes magic mushrooms so magical, for the treatment of depression. What are the results of the assessment? Well, it was found psilocybin produces no negative effects.

While there are still some obstacles to overcome, the positive results contribute to an ongoing program to develop a psilocybin-based treatment for depression that’s not responded to other treatments. 

Recently, researchers from King’s College London and mental healthcare company COMPASS Pathways conducted a randomized placebo-controlled phase 1 trial of psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychoactive mushrooms.

There were just under 90 healthy volunteers taking part in the test and they were divided into three groups. The volunteers either received 10 milligrams of the drug, 25 milligrams, or a placebo.

With the team reporting no serious adverse effects of taking the doses of psilocybin, they proudly presented their findings at the 58th annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) last week. 

Participants who received the psilocybin experienced changes in their sensory perception. Some even reported a boost in their mood, which is no surprise. However, none of the participants reported any negative effects on cognitive function or their emotional state.

Their drug trial was a phase 1 trial. This means it only tests the safety and side effects of the drug, not its potential therapeutic value or effectiveness. But researchers are hopeful that the positive results will pave the way for psilocybin to be used against treatment-resistant depression.

Dr James Rucker, the lead investigator of the study and consultant psychiatrist and senior clinical lecturer in psychopharmacology at King’s College London, claims this is the largest controlled study of psilocybin to date.

He adds the results support further development of psilocybin as a treatment for patients with mental health problems. Especially those who haven’t improved with conventional therapy, such as treatment-resistant depression.

This is not the first set of trials emphasising the important role which psilocybin can play in mental health. In fact, a number of scientific studies show psilocybin can be used to treat depression, especially in cases which haven’t responded to conventional treatment.

There are also been strong indications that the drug can possibly help people fight addictions, such as smoking and drinking.

Currently, the company responsible for the research is also conducting a phase 2 randomized control trial of psilocybin for 216 patients with treatment-resistant depression. This will be the largest clinical study of its kind.

Dr Ekaterina Malievskaia, chief innovation officer and co-founder at COMPASS Pathways says as they look for a way to assist people and develop a treatment for treatment-resistant depression, they need to look and at the safety and tolerability of their psilocybin. This is to ensure patients are able to safely participate in the therapy.

With magic mushrooms possibly holding the answers to treating depression, it seems that researchers will soon be able to bring mental health to the forefront.  

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