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For treatment-resistant depression, magic mushroom drug holds promise

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James Williams
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Alan Rockefeller

Psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, may be an effective way to treat depression in patients that have seen no benefit from other, standard forms of treatment, early results suggest.

In a pilot study involving just 12 people with treatment-resistant depression, two doses of the mushroom compound cleared symptoms in eight participants—67 percent—after one week.

We are simply saying that this is doable, Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London and first author of the study, told Nature.

Carhart-Harris and colleagues got the idea to try psilocybin after earlier brain imaging studies found that the compound activated brain regions associated with antidepressant effects.

Plus, large population studies have found that people who used psychedelics in their lifetime have lower rates of psychological distress and suicidal episodes compared to those that didn t.

Moreover, psilocybin is readily converted to psilocin in the body, which can activates serotonin receptors.

While the efficacy was pretty remarkable, according to Carhart-Harris, far more work will need to be done to prove that psilocybin can treat depression reliably.

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