Psychedelic research has shown the active ingredient in magic mushrooms could be a promising treatment for depression.
Results from a small phase two clinical trial showed that two doses of psilocybin appeared to be as effective as the common antidepressant Escitalopram.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the centre for psychedelic research at Imperial College London, told The Guardian: “I think it is fair to say that the results signal hope that we may be looking at a promising alternative treatment for depression.”
He said that while Escitalopram helps reduce stress levels, the psychedelic is more about a release of thoughts that when guided with psychotherapy produce positive outcomes.
However, Dr Carhart-Harris cautioned against seeking out the class A drug in the UK for DIY treatment.
“That would be an error of judgement. We strongly believe that the psychotherapy component is as important as the drug action.”
The £1m, six-week trial tested 59 adults with moderate to severe major depressive disorder.
30 of them were given two 25mg doses of psilocybin three weeks apart- a dose high enough to produce “mystical” experiences, while 29 were given “inactive” doses.
Each session which included a three to four hour trip was supervised by two mental health professionals.
All participants then received psychological therapy the day after.
The findings showed that 57 per cent of patients in the high-dose group were judged to be in remission for their depression by the end of the six weeks.
Although this is some of the most powerful evidence to date showing psychedelics can be used to treat depression, far more data will be needed before they can be used outside of research.
Paddy Edrich is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter here