The prohibition on psychedelics was memorably described as "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" by former UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, and despite the ban, there has been a consistent, determined, very promising (sometimes surprising) drumbeat of scientific papers about the use of psilocybin ("magic mushrooms") and other psychedelics in treating a range of chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses.
Now, a pair of new papers from an Imperial College London team (including David Nutt) detail the promising outcomes of a small-scale (20 subject) study in treating moderate to severe depression with psilocybin, in which the subjects report significant improvement without the "emotional dulling" associated with mainline antidepressants (this dulling effect is a major contributor to the cessation of medication), and in which fMRI imaging offers some clues to how psilocybin is mitigating depression.
Depressive symptoms subsided, and the mental benefits lasted for weeks after the treatment in participants who reported a strong mystical experience.
"[F]uture therapeutic work with psychedelics may consider investigating ways which enhance mystical-type experience and reduce anxiety, given the growing evidence that this serves the efficacy of the treatment model," conclude the authors.
The researchers are planning on carrying out larger trials with a healthy control group in which the effects of psilocybin could be compared with an existing antidepressant.
"We also want to investigate how the amygdala responds a longer time after treatment," Roseman adds, "which will inform us about longer-term effects — compared to the [first] study, which was only looked at 1 day after the therapy."
Magic mushrooms: Treating depression without dulling emotions [Ana Sandoiu/Medical News Today]