Magic-mushroom drug lifts depression in first human trial

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Nature Magazine reports that researchers from Imperial College London gave psilocybin to 12 people with depression. All the patients showed "a marked improvement in their symptoms." From Nature:

Researchers from Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms. All had been clinically depressed for a significant amount of time — on average 17.8 years. None of the patients had responded to standard medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or had electroconvulsive therapy.

One week after receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, all patients experienced a marked improvement in their symptoms. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission.

“That is pretty remarkable in the context of currently available treatments,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London and first author of the latest study, which is published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The equivalent remission rate for SSRIs is around 20%.

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There's a new Hyperbole and a Half book coming!

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In 2014, Allie Brosh's outstanding, hilarious, and gut-wrenching webcomic Hyperbole and a Half made the jump to print with an incredible book (review); now Simon and Schuster have announced a followup, Solutions and Other Problems, to be published next October -- I just pre-ordered my copy! (via Wil Wheaton) Read the rest

Powerful video campaign in Scotland against mental health stigma

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“Are you okay?”

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How ESPN writer Bill Barnwell lost 125 pounds last year

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Bill Barnwell topped the scales at 334.7 pounds on January 1, 2105. This year, he's a little over 200. In this essay he writes about his depression, body image, compulsive eating, and what he did about it. Barnwell describes his compulsive eating as "the fear of missing out."

My compulsive eating had little to do with hunger and was almost never enjoyable. Instead, it was like trying to chase a vague, indefinable comfort, some satisfaction that never arrived — or even could arrive. It was the fear of missing out, but for food and constantly. I would struggle to pick between two fast food places and just stop at each of their drive-thrus, hiding the soda cup and the wrappers from the first one so the second cashier wouldn’t see, because being caught in my embarrassing act was somehow more shamefug than the actual behavior I was committing. The idea of just waiting for another day just wasn’t realistic to me; I absolutely, compulsively had to get that sandwich from Wendy’s. The act of ordering the food, of making the conscious choice to indulge, was far more important than eating the stupid thing.

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Antidepressant use by moms during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

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Researchers examining a possible link between antidepressants and autism found that women who took the psychiatric medications while pregnant were far more likely to have autistic kids.

Women in the study who took antidepressants during the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Researchers say the link was most prevalent with women on the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are some of the more common SSRI drug brand names.

Does the new study prove antidepressants cause autism? No. Correlation is not causation, and science is complicated. But increasingly, autism research is focusing on factors that may contribute to the disorder before birth.

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Suicide rates are highest in spring -- not around Christmas

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No one's sure how the story of suicides increasing during holiday season got started (some researchers think it may have come from It's a Wonderful Life!), but it's not true. Read the rest

Mobile phone use may worsen depression

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PUMP, or Problematic Use of Mobile Phone, happens when users turn to their phones instead of in-person contact to alleviate depression, according to a new study in Computers in Human Behavior. Read the rest

Wil Wheaton on depression

In a heartfelt and frank interview (conducted by our own Caroline Siede!), Wil Wheaton discusses the moment he realized he needed help with his clinical depression, and the moment he realized that the help was helping. Read the rest

Popehat on depression

Just because you're a Type A, "fully invested in the classic American self-image of independence and grit," don't think you couldn't use some help. Read the rest

Ketamine helps depressed patients temporarily experience pleasure again

Ketamine, a tranquilizer/anesthetic and recreational drug, can relieve symptoms of depression for up to a couple of weeks, writes psychiatrist Emily Deans.

In a recent paper, researchers described how they used a noncompetitive inhibitor of the NMDA receptor and partial dopamine receptor agonist, ketamine to rapidly reverse the symptoms of anhedonia in depressed patients. Ketamine has been featured on CBS news for its ability to quickly relieve depression unlike any other pharmacologic agent we have. It is typically used intravenously, and can cause hallucinations and dissociation (in fact it is also known as the club drug “Special K"). However, it seems to be able to reverse damage to the synapses caused by chronic stress, and relieve the symptoms of depression very quickly, within 30-40 minutes.

The down side to ketamine (besides lack of FDA approval for depression, the hallucinations, and lack of general availability) is that the effects don’t last. If you are lucky, you get a couple of weeks, then the depression comes back. Researchers and doctors, however, are hoping ketamine could be used as a bridging agent in seriously depressed, hospitalized patients, allowing them to feel better immediately while other, longer acting but much slower onset agents have a chance to get into the system and do their work. The immediate reversal of the key symptom of anhedonia [inability to experience pleasure] may be an even more important lesson we can learn from the use of ketamine.

The Ketamine Key: The horse tranquilizer helps depressed patients experience pleasure again Read the rest

Groucho Marx on comics and depression

"I'm sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that he is seriously considering suicide. Read the rest

New studies suggest smarter sleep therapy may help people who suffer from depression

The first of four studies on a poorly-understood link between sleep quality and depression indicates that when antidepressant medication and insomnia therapy are used together, recovery from depression is more thorough, and faster. (Thanks, Miles O'Brien) Read the rest

Pregnant? Depressed? Read this

Some kinds of antidepressants might pose a risk to embryos and fetuses at certain stages in their development. But depression in the mother also puts fetuses at risk, so whether or not a pregnant woman should take antidepressants is still a really complicated question. The answer depends a lot of individual experience of depressive symptoms, which drugs are taken, and when. As with most things relating to pregnancy and health, there's not a solid one-size-fits-all answer and individuals still have to weigh risks and make hard choices alone. Read the rest

Depressed Cake Shop: a pop-up shop selling grey cakes to raise money for mental health charities

Miss Cakehead writes, "The Depressed Cake Shop will be like nothing ever seen before as it will sell ONLY grey coloured cakes. Raising money for mental health charities, it will also provide a platform for discussion of the illness. The pop up is based in the UK but with other events starting to be planned around the globe."

The Depressed Cake Shop Read the rest

Hyperbole and a Half returns with another episode on depression

The amazing and wonderful Hyperbole and a Half is back, with the long-overdue continuation of the 2011 post on depression. This isn't an entirely upbeat post (as you might expect), but it is every bit as indispensable and smart and great as the previous entries. And it's an ultimately hopeful one, too.

And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something — it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two Read the rest

Clay Shirky: "Remembering Aaron by taking care of each other"

Author and NYU professor Clay Shirky writes about one of the imperatives he believes the death of Aaron Swartz should bring to life: "We need to take care of the people in our community who are depressed," he writes.

Suicide is not hard to understand, not intellectually anyway. It is, as Jeff Atwood says, the ultimate in ragequitting. But for most of us, it is hard to understand emotionally.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve spent a lot of time with people at risk of suicide, and so have become an amateur scholar of that choice. When I first started reading about it, I thought of it as the last stop on a road of stress and upset — when things get bad, people suffer, and when they get really bad, they take their own lives.

And what I learned was that this view is wrong. Suicide is no more a heightened reaction to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than depression is just being extra sad. Most of us won’t kill ourselves, no matter how bad things get. The common thread among people who commit suicide is that they are suicidal.

Read more: Remembering Aaron by taking care of each other (Clay Shirky blog) Read the rest

2600 radio tribute to Aaron Swartz

Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 magazine sez, "We've gotten such a strong response to this and wanted to make sure anyone who knew Aaron - or who simply knew OF him - got a chance to hear the hour-long tribute from Wednesday's 'Off The Hook' radio program in New York, a show he was a guest on only a few months ago. We played an excerpt of that, along with part of an incredible interview with Aaron at age 14 that underlines what a remarkable person he was. We also delved into the issue of depression in our community with excerpts from the 'Geeks and Depression' panel at HOPE Number Nine, and we had a roundtable discussion on what we can do better and where people at risk can turn. It's part of a continuing conversation that we need to have in every conceivable forum. Read the rest

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