February 18, 2022 – Treatment with psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms,” relieves major depression for up to a year, and perhaps more, according to new research.
In a study of adults with a long-term history of depression, two doses of psilocybin, combined with supportive “speech” therapy, elicited large, stable, and lasting antidepressant effects for one year of follow-up.
At 12 months, three-quarters of study participants had an antidepressant response and more than half were in remission of their depression, reporters from the Center for Psychedelic Research and Consciousness at Johns University School of Medicine report. Hopkins, Baltimore.
“Psilocybin not only produces significant, immediate effects, but also has a long-lasting effect, suggesting that it may be a new and useful treatment for depression,” said Roland Griffiths, PhD, study researcher and director founder of the center, in a statement.
“Compared to standard antidepressants, which should be taken for long periods of time, psilocybin has the potential to permanently relieve the symptoms of depression with one or two treatments,” he said.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that psilocybin can alter a person’s perception and awareness of their environment and their thoughts and feelings. Psilocybin treatment has shown promise in research settings for treating a number of mental health disorders and addictions.
“The results we see are in a research environment and require a lot of preparation and structured support from trained doctors and therapists, and people should not try this on their own,” warned Natalie Gukasyan, MD, who also worked on studying it.
Psilocybin and related compounds are not yet available for clinical use under the Controlled Substances and Drugs Act.
The current study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, included 19 women and five men with moderate to severe depression. The vast majority had previously been treated with standard antidepressant medications, and more than half reported using antidepressants in their current depressive episodes.
At the time of psilocybin treatment, all study participants completed 6 to 8 hours of “preparatory” meetings with two people trained in psilocybin therapy. After that, they received two doses of psilocybin administered about two weeks apart in a comfortable, controlled environment.
They returned for follow-up 1 day and 1 week after each session, and then at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after the second session.
Psilocybin treatment resulted in large decreases in depression and depression remained less severe until 12 months after treatment.
There were no serious psilocybin-related side effects in the long-term follow-up period.
“We have not yet collected formal data for the last year in our sample, [but] some participants in our study have kept in touch and are reporting continuous improvements in mood, ”Gukasyan tells WebMD.
“A previous study of psilocybin-assisted therapy in patients with depression and cancer-related anxiety symptoms found that improvements in mood and well-being may persist for up to 4.5 years after treatment.” , says Gukasyan.
Researchers say more research is needed to explore the possibility that the antidepressant effects of psilocybin may last well over 12 months.