Psilocybin has shown outstanding promising potential in depression treatment. The FDA has even gone so far to call it “a breakthrough” with significant evidence suggesting psilocybin is superior to mainstream antidepressant medications.
Can Psilocybin Therapy Treat Depression?
Recently, in 2018, the FDA granted approval for psilocybin depression treatment. They hope that psilocybin can eliminate depressive symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). 17 million Americans and 300 million worldwide have this affliction. John Hopkins released a study this month that offered promise. A small sample of adults experienced a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. “The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” one researcher said. Psilocybin was particularly notable for the speed of its effects. Typical antidepressants take weeks, even months to work, with many unwanted side effects.
Tim Ferriss funded a recent study published last month in JAMA Psychiatry. A small sample of adults again showed a 50% reduction in symptoms for three-quarters of the group.
The Beckley Psychedelic Research Programme in England has a promising study from 2017. Every individual in their small sample group showed a reduction in depression symptoms. None of these studies reported any patients experiencing the usual side effects. (Typical side effects include Confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, depersonalization, etc). Older studies found psilocybin helped people be “open-minded” and “shake off feelings of rejection”. These earlier findings may have foreshadowed current reports.
Psilocybin Clinical Trials Treating Depression
There are currently several clinical trials investigating psilocybin impact on depression. These studies will be published by 2021. The Beckley Programme study from 2017 administered oral psilocybin to 20 adults. All individuals had treatment-resistant depression, and had made efforts to curb symptoms prior. All patients saw remission in a week. The diminishment was most significant by week 5, and continued for several months. No individuals saw side effects, nor sought out alternative medications. The group had no placebo or control group.
The Compass Pathways study began in early 2019 and is expected to publish its results in 2021. This study will focus on treatment resistant depression and exclude comorbidities. This study is using 216 patients. Thus far there is indication that psychedelics may assist in treating symptoms associated with isolation in the wake of the pandemic. The Usona Institute is conducting a clinical trial on Major Depressive Disorder. This study began in late 2019 and will publish its findings in early 2021 as well. The Usona Institute study excludes comorbidities as well as pregnancy. These studies measured symptoms by the MADRS scale.
The Tim Ferriss funded study published in JAMA began in 2019 and was completed and published in 2020. This study used 27 patients, excluding comorbidities, administering oral doses of psilocybin. This study had patients measure symptoms using the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
Yale University plans a quiet study of Psilocybin in the treatment of Depression. Researchers will administer psilocybin doses and take EEG readings of patient neuroplasticity. The study is looking for correlations between neuroplasticity change and remission in depression.
Psilocybin Depression Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy
Every one of these studies administered psilocybin treatments in the context of psychotherapy. The treatments were over weeks, with symptom monitoring occurring over several months. Patients would check in with a therapist, who had them rate their symptoms on one of two standardized rating systems. Given the possibility of strong emotional responses, therapy offers guidance, support and structure. Psychedelic experiences also are best had with a sober companion-known as a “trip-sitter”. Therapy alone may be insufficient in helping a patient remember everything. Psilocybin alone may lead to a frightening and isolating experience. In tandem, psilocybin psychotherapy offered the results discussed above.
The Future of Psilocybin Mushrooms Depression Treatment
The future of treatment of depression with psilocybin rests largely in the hand of legislators. Legal restrictions block easy access to psilocybin compounds. This inhibits research into depression and psilocybin. The mechanisms of psilocybin research are still largely unknown, and there are many variables left to explore (i.e. dosage, therapy). The behavior of the FDA thus far is very promising and may suggest a rapid change to come.