Researchers at the Imperial College Of London found that the active compound in magic mushrooms known as ‘Psilocybin’, may be as effective as a leading antidepressant medication when used in a therapeutic setting.
The study consisted of 59 volunteers with moderate-to-severe depression. They received either a high dose of psilocybin (the active compound found in magic mushrooms) and a placebo, or a very low dose of psilocybin and escitalopram (the regular antidepressant, otherwise known as an SSRI).
For the psilocybin dosing sessions, volunteers received an oral dose of the drug in a specialist clinical setting, while they listened to a curated music playlist and were guided through their experiences by a psychological support team, which included registered psychiatrists. They compared the two sessions of psilocybin therapy with a six-week course of a leading antidepressant (escitalopram). The results were as follows:
- Whilst depression scores were reduced in both groups, the reductions occurred more quickly in the psilocybin group and were greater in magnitude.
- There were marked improvements in ability to feel pleasure, expression of emotions, greater reductions in anxiety and suicidal ideation, and increased feelings of wellbeing in those who were treated with psilocybin.
- Other encouraging findings from treatment using psilocybin include; fewer reported cases of dry mouth, anxiety, drowsiness and sexual dysfunction than the escitalopram group, and a similar rate of adverse events overall.
“These latest findings...offer the most compelling evidence yet to support efforts towards licensing psilocybin therapy as a regulated mental health intervention.” - Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Centre for Psychedelic Research.
However, the researchers caution that the main comparison between psilocybin and the antidepressant was not statistically significant. They add that larger trials with more patients over a longer period are needed to show if psilocybin can perform as well as, or more effectively than an established antidepressant. If you would like to discover more information on the study, you can do so by clicking on this link.