Magic mushrooms treat depression more effectively than conventional drugs

2022-08-21 19:18:04
Magic mushrooms treat depression more effectively than conventional drugs

Magic mushrooms connect regions of the brain that are more segregated in people with depression, paving the way to treat the condition differently than with conventional medications.

Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound present in fungi, helped “open up” and improve communication within the brain for up to three weeks, researchers from Imperial College London found. The result was a liberating effect not seen with traditional antidepressant Lexapro, according to the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

New treatment approaches are needed since as many as one in three patients don’t achieve a full recovery with existing first-line drugs. The World Health Organisation estimates over 5% of adults worldwide suffer from depression, making it difficult to engage in everyday life.

The brains of people with depression typically have circuits that become more isolated from each other, a condition that’s linked to negative cognitive bias, rigid thought patterns and fixation regarding oneself and the future, Nutt said.

Psilocybin helped areas of the brain communicate better with one another, leading patients to experience an “emotional release”, optimism and more psychological flexibility, the study found.

The findings bode well for research on other mental illnesses. Nutt’s team is studying the use of psychedelics for anorexia and is hoping to secure funding to test psilocybin as a treatment for addiction.

Dr Carol Routledge, chief medical and scientific officer at Small Pharma in Britain, said she was hopeful that such therapies could soon become a standard way to treat depression, in a way that “got to the root cause” of the problem, rather than simply masking symptoms.

Dr Routledge said psychedelic drugs offered great promise in the treatment of mental health problems, saying they could offer almost immediate benefits, compared with antidepressants, which often take up to three months to take full effect.

“Based on initial data that we already have, and other companies have, there’s going to be a fairly immediate impact,” she said, with results born of just one session.

“In terms of the psychedelic experience, we’re talking about 20 minutes, and then the integration therapy afterwards, in a total two-and-a-half-hour session … we expect the antidepressant activity to be extremely durable … to last maybe three, four or five months,” she said.


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