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Magic mushrooms can be used as an antidepressant medication

The psychedelic component in magic mushroom can be used to treat depression, a study says

During the study depressive symptoms decreased thanks to psilocybin

A new study suggests that the psychedelic component in magic mushrooms could be used as an antidepressant medication.

Magic mushrooms to treat depression

Researchers compared psilocybin, found in the mushroom, with a sex-week course of the antidepressant escitalopram using 59 people with moderate to severe depression.

Depression scores reduced in both groups, but more quickly and greater in magnitude in the case of psilocybin.

Though, researchers still thinks that the comparison between psilocybin and the antidepressant is not statistically significant and they need to observe more patients over a longer period to prove if the compound can be used as an established antidepressant.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London said: «One of the most important aspects of this work is that people can clearly see the promise of properly delivered psilocybin therapy by viewing it compared with a more familiar, established treatment in the same study.

«Psilocybin performed very favourably in this head-to-head». Volunteers received an oral dose of the drug and the researchers had them listening to a curated music playlist for six hours, which was the time the session lasted. The session was led by a psychological and psychiatrist team for the entire time.

Professor David Nutt said: «The effect builds up over about 30 to 40 minutes, and then, for most people, the duration effect is about three to four hours, and then it wears off. «So the total is six hours, but it’s not six hours of tripping».

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and shows that people treated with psilocybin – named Comp360 after its developer Compass Pathways – had some improvements as reaching the ability to feel pleasure and express emotions, a reduction in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Prof Nutt said: «Very often, for the first time, people have actually come to understand why they’re depressed and they really want to talk about it, because that’s what helps them overcome the kind of persistent negative attitudes they’ve had about themselves and about their lives, which underpins depression».

The 6 weeks experiment

Volunteers were divided in two groups: the first one received an initial dose of psilocybin at the star of the study and a second dose three weeks later; the second one went with 1mg psilocybin and escitalopram every day for six weeks.

The depressive symptoms largely decreased after six weeks from a 14.5 score to an average of 8.0, using the 16-Item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS-SR-16).

The remission of symptoms was also major in the psilocybin group – 57%- than it was for the escitalopram group – 28%. The psilocybin group showed some side-effect as dry mouth, anxiety, drowsiness and, the most common, headaches.

Researches warn patients with depression to not attempt to self-medicate with psilocybin. Anthony Cleare explains: «We need much more data before these treatments could be considered ready for use outside of carefully controlled research studies. «In particular, we do not yet know which types of patients, and which types of depression, may be best suited for psychedelic treatments.

«We also do not know how long benefits last and whether or how often treatments may need to be repeated».

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