UK company launches trial of hallucinogenic drug to treat depression

21st June 2021

British biotech company Small Pharma launched the first phase of its clinical trial in January, assessing the effects of hallucinogenic DMT-based drug in treating depression.

The Daily Mail reports that Small Pharma is carrying out the trial to see if hallucinogenic drugs can be used to help those suffering from severe depression.

DMT, which is one of the main ingredients of ayahuasca, a brew commonly used for spiritual and religious purposes in South America, is currently a Class A drug in the UK.

Experts and regular users say the drug has a similar impact to other psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and magic mushrooms.

The trial involves the administration of a DMT-based medication alongside expert psychotherapy sessions to treat the sources of depression.

When last December it was announced the firm would be able to start the trial, Small Pharma’s chief scientific and medical officer Carol Routledge said: “The psychedelic drug breaks up all of the ruminative thought processes in your brain.

“It literally undoes what has been done by either the stress you’ve been through or the depressive thoughts you have, and hugely increases the making of new connections.

“Then the [psychotherapy] session afterwards is the letting-things-settle piece of things. It helps you to make sense of those thoughts and puts you back on the right track.

“We think this could be a treatment for a number of depressive disorders besides major depression, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and possibly some types of substance abuse.”

The Daily Mail reports that the first step of the trial will be to examine the effects and impact that the drug has on a healthy brain.

Following that comes experimentation with different dosages and strategies administered by the scientists, and then hopefully the successful treatment of the patients.

Small Pharma CEO Peter Rands said they hoped that the firm would be able to start offering its licenced treatment in six years.

The trial is a “controlled therapeutic experience”, in which the patient takes the drug while being monitored by a therapist. It is reported that the patients are being prepared to ensure the brain is ready.

He said: “The aim is to tackle the root of the problem, rather than simply mask the cause, as many existing treatments do, and that is where the therapy and psychedelic combination comes into its own.”

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