A new study suggests that psilocybin, an active compound found in magic mushrooms, has significant antidepressant potential.
Though the exact therapeutic actions are not fully understood, two clinical trials found significant subacute impacts of psilocybin on patients with severe forms of depression, according to the study published in Nature. The first 60-patient open-label trial of orally administered psilocybin showed global increases in brain network integration. The trial participants suffered from treatment-resistant depression and were measured against the Beck Depression Inventory to assess the severity of their depressive symptoms at baseline, during and after being administered psilocybin, the study reported.
“Rapid, substantial, and sustained reductions in depression severity were observed after treatment,” the study authors reported. The results further suggested that patients had a global increase in functional connectivity within the brain’s core intrinsic networks after administering the psilocybin.
Overall, the first trial found that even after one day of psilocybin therapy, patients can have long-term improvements in their depression symptom severity. (RELATED: NIH Hands Out Millions In Grants To Study Psychedelic Mushrooms)
Just out in @NatureMedicine. Psilocybin therapy liberates the entrenched depressed brain by increasing the global integration of functional networks. It has been brilliant to collaborate w/ @RCarhartHarris @ProfDavidNutt et al.https://t.co/3JS6R1ScYA
— Richard E. Daws (@neuroDaws) April 11, 2022
The second trial sought to compare the safety, efficacy and mechanisms of action of psilocybin to the conventional antidepressant drug escitalopram, the study continued. Conducted in a double-blind setting, patients were prescribed either psilocybin or escitalopram for six weeks and one day.
Once again, psilocybin was found to decrease brain network modularity, which was significantly correlated with improvements in depression symptom severity, the authors continued. The same was not identified in those patients receiving the conventional antidepressant drug.
When combined, the two trials found that psilocybin had significant antidepression efficacy. One of the study’s authors, Imperial College London’s Center of Psychedelic Research Professor David Nutt, said that findings were “exciting” and “important,” according to the BBC.
Put in layman’s terms, when given psilocybin, the human brain is able to open up and become “more flexible and fluid,” with results lasting up to three weeks later, the outlet reported. “This supports our initial predictions, and confirms psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments,” Professor Nutt continued.
“We do know that some people relapse, and it may be that after a while their brains revert to the rigid patterns of activity we see in depression,” study author Professor Robin Carhart-Harris stated, the BBC reported.
In 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was allegedly going to consider calls for the legalization of psilocybin, according to another BBC article. Magic mushrooms are illegal in the UK, and possession carries maximum penalties of seven years imprisonment and a fine, according to DrugWise.