A single dose of the psychedelic drug psilocybin combined with supportive counseling leads to significant reductions in depressive symptoms, according to a new double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The findings have recently been published in eClinicalMedicine.
Psilocybin is a psychoactive compound found in certain types of “magic” mushrooms. It has been used for hundreds of years in spiritual and religious rituals for its ability to alter one’s state of consciousness. Psilocybin produces powerful effects on the brain, mediated through its activation of serotonin 5-HT2A receptors.
In recent years, psilocybin has undergone clinical studies to explore its potential therapeutic benefits, with promising results in areas including depression and anxiety. However, further research is needed to understand the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy.
“I developed a scientific passion for the topic when investigating the neuro-behavioral and subjective effects of 5-HT2A agonists in my earlier academic career. That passion was further fueled with the current shortcomings in several psychiatric standard of care treatment options and the therapeutic potential of psychedelic molecules like psilocybin,” said study author Robin von Rotz, who conducted the trial as part of his PhD at the University of Zurich.
In the study, 52 participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder were randomly assigned to receive either a single dose of psilocybin or placebo combined with psychological support. Five participants in the psilocybin treatment group and 11 participants in the control group reported having previous experience with psychedelic drugs. The study utilized a double-blind procedure, meaning neither the researchers or the participants knew who was in the psilocybin group and who was in the control group.