For up to 9,000 years, humans have been reaping the spiritual, psychological, and recreational benefits of psilocybin mushrooms. But for years, exploring its possibilities within the world of medicine has been hampered by tight legal regulations and – no doubt – its association with countercultures. However, a pioneering study in the U.K. has boasted promising results in using the psychedelic drug to treat depression.
The trial at Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in “magic mushrooms.” These six men and six women had all been diagnosed with moderate or severe depression for a significant amount of time – an average of 17.8 years – and had previously undertaken unsuccessful attempts at other treatments.
The study, recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that all the patients experienced a notable improvement in their symptoms within three weeks of taking the psychedelic trip. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission, reporting no signs or symptoms of depression.
This stands in comparison to the 20 percent remission rate of people who had their depression treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) – the current medical mainstay for treating depression.
Although all the participants reported temporary anxiety before and during taking the trip, there were no other unexpected side effects during the study.
As the researchers themselves admit, this is a very small sample group. Plus, there was no placebo administered during the research to truly assess the validity of the results. However, these preliminary results seem optimistic. The research also hopes to play a significant role in stirring up the government and the medical establishment’s view of research on illegal drugs.
Professor David Nutt, senior author of the research and one of the U.K.’s leading experts on drugs as well as a former senior advisor to the U.K. government on drug policy, explained the cultural and scientific significance of this study, as well as the hard work it took to get the study sanctioned, to Nature News:
“Every interaction – applying for licenses, waiting for licenses, receiving the licenses, applying for contracts for drug manufacture, on and on – involved a delay of up to two months. It was enormously frustrating, and most of it was unnecessary,” he said.
“The study result isn’t the remarkable part – it’s the fact that we did it at all.”
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