Depression continues to thwart the joys of more than 300 million people across the globe and also remains a leading cause of both disability and death. And this, of course, continues to drive a major pharmaceutical industry in depression (et al) drugs.
But a new study—published in the December 2017 issue of the scientific journal Neuropharmacology—suggests that, perhaps, the best remedy for depression might be all natural. The research looks at the powerful effects of psychedelic mushrooms or, more accurately, its active ingredient psilocybin.
Imperial College London’s Leor Roseman comments, “I believe that psychedelics hold a potential to cure dee psychological wounds, and I believe that by investigating their neuropsychopharmacological mechanism, we can learn to understand this potential.”
However, Roseman also notes, “The major caveats are a lack of control group, a lack of SSRI group, and that the time point of investigation is only one day after the psilocybin session and not more than that. All of these caveats will be addressed in our next trial.”
Indeed, the trial only looked at 20 patients with major depression. Each patient underwent two therapy sessions assisted with psilocybin. In the study, each participant was given brain scans before their first treatment and then again after their second treatment. During each scanning session, the patients were shown images of faces displaying happy, fearful, and neutral expressions. After taking the mushroom-based therapy, most of the patients reported improvement in their depression symptoms.
An older study from some of the people involved in this research suggest that this improvement in mood is the result of the drug “resetting” brain circuits in depressed people. Also, they said that those patients reported improvements enduring more than a month after treatment.
The research team observed heightened responses in the amygdala to both fearful and happy faces after treatment with psilocybin. After a week of treatment, they found patients only had increased amygdala responses to fearful faces
Roseman goes on to say, “It is important to emphasize that psilocybin-assisted therapy is a model in which the patient is undergoing a deep psychological process in one or few psychedelic sessions, in which he might have an intense cathartic experience, or peak experience.”
He concludes, “Psilocybin-assisted therapy might mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection, this is unlike SSRI antidepressants which are criticized for creating in many people a general emotional blunting.