‘Magic mushrooms’ a safe treatment for depression, King’s College researchers found

5th January 2022

A new British study shows that administering psilocybin can be a valid option in treating drug-resistant depression.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, in partnership with COMPASS Pathways, has established that psilocybin can be safely administered at doses of either 10mg or 25mg to up to six participants simultaneously.

Results from the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, indicated that psilocybin use did not have any detrimental short- or long-term effects on cognitive functioning or emotional processing.

National Institute for Health Research Clinical Scientist Dr James Rucker, the study’s lead author from King’s IoPPN and honorary consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This rigorous study is an important first demonstration that the simultaneous administration of psilocybin can be explored further.

“If we think about how psilocybin therapy (if approved) may be delivered in the future, it’s important to demonstrate the feasibility and the safety of giving it to more than one person at the same time, so we can think about how we scale up the treatment.

“This therapy has promise for people living with serious mental health problems, like treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and PTSD.

“They can be extremely disabling, distressing and disruptive, but current treatment options for these conditions are ineffective or partially effective for many people.”

What is psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that is found in a small number of fungi, often referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’.

These mushrooms have become well-known, however for the past half-decade, they have largely been associated with recreational drug use, hippy culture and anti-establishment groups. There is comparatively little awareness of the health and therapeutic potential of the substance.

About the study

In the study, 89 healthy participants with no recent (within a year) psilocybin use were recruited.

Among those, 60 were given either a 10mg or 25mg dose of psilocybin in a controlled environment while being assisted by one-on-ones with trained psychotherapists. The remaining 29 participants received a placebo, and also professional psychological support.

The participants were monitored for 12 weeks. According to the researchers, during this period, those in the study were assessed for a number of changes, including sustained attention, memory, and planning, as well as their ability to process emotions.

Professor Guy Goodwin, Chief Medical Officer, COMPASS Pathways, said: “This study was an early part of our clinical development programme for COMP360 psilocybin therapy.

“It explored the safety and feasibility of simultaneous psilocybin administration, with 1:1 support, in healthy participants, and provided a strong foundation to which we have now added positive results from our Phase IIb trial in 233 patients with TRD, and from our open-label study of patients taking SSRI antidepressants alongside psilocybin therapy.

“We are looking forward to finalising plans for our phase III programme, which we expect to begin in Q3 2022.”

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