Scientists explore whether psilocybin can treat depression

2021-11-12 08:48:16 By : Mr. Tony Ye

Scientists may be about to use psilocybin to treat depression

Scientists may be about to use psilocybin to treat depression

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Scientists may be about to use psilocybin to treat depression

Can the so-called magic mushroom become a panacea for depression?

A psychedelic compound found in mushrooms is opening up pathways inside the brain, and scientists—including many in the Baltimore area—may be on the verge of pioneering treatment.

Em Hanchek described his experience of using psilocybin, a medicinal version of the magic mushroom, the psychedelic substance.

"I did experience some very interesting and unusual images, very dreamy. Some of them are more classic psychedelic, more shapes and colors, and changing feelings," Hanchek said.

For patients with refractory depression, this is a potentially groundbreaking drug.

"My life is now in a different place," Hanchek said.

Hanchek is one of 24 participants in a recent study by the Center for the Study of Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University.

The medical director of the center, Dr. Natalie Gukasyan, said: “For some people who have not been relieved from the existing traditional therapies, this may save lives.” “The effects of drugs usually show up quickly and are more effective than anti-depressants. Medicine is much faster."

Participants in the Hopkins University study took two psilocybin pills-two weeks apart between each dose. One month later, 71% of the participants had a "clinically significant" response, which meant that their depressive symptoms had improved by 50% or more, and 54% of the participants were in a "complete remission" state.

The next phase of the study will evaluate these participants in one year. The results have not yet been announced, but Gukasyan said they are impressive.

"In essence, it shows that the results we saw in one month lasted for a surprisingly one year, which is very remarkable," Gucasian said.

Here is how the treatment works: First, the participants prepare for the experience through several consultation sessions, and then on the day of treatment, they are taken to this comfortable room.

"People are lying on the sofa. They put on blindfolds, they wear headphones, and they record preset music, and they are encouraged to walk inward and experience it," Gukasyan said.

Two therapists worked with them to provide support throughout the hallucinogenic experience, which lasted four to six hours.

"Psilocybin allows geographically and functionally distant brain regions to talk to each other when they don't normally talk to each other," Gukasyan said.

Hopkins University is not the only medical institution in Maryland that studies psilocybin. Researchers at Sheppard Pratt are conducting a study that requires one dose. Dr. Scott Aaronson described his results as shocking.

"Some of us laughed for an entire hour, and some of us cried for an entire hour," Aaronson said. "Ultimately, all my research is a single dose of psilocybin and often leads to transformative results. We have followed some people and they have been on for 12 weeks now, but they are still in remission."

To explain what happened, Aaronson showed a picture showing the brain activity after taking a placebo and taking psilocybin. The extra lines show the new connections in the brain.

"What we are actually doing here is increasing neural activity, which enables people to participate in their inner life in a different way than any other way," Aaronson said.

Aaronson said that psilocybin seems to open a door to make psychotherapy more effective.

"This is a completely different way of looking at depression," Aaronson said.

Gukasyan said that for some people, this is a completely different way of looking at their existence. She was very interested in the mysterious experience described by some of the participants.

"It feels like I am integrated with nature and the universe, a bit of losing the boundary between myself and others, and so on," Gukasyan said.

Many scientists are still studying psilocybin. It will take five or six years before it can be used as a treatment method, and a larger scale of research is needed. For Hanchek, the improvement did not happen immediately. But over time, it made psychotherapy more effective.

"Start with a person who previously prevented him from participating in life, walk out of life, and be able to work towards someone who is more open to more experience and kinder to himself-which means being kinder and more open to others, "Hanchek said.

Researchers said that this is just the beginning of psilocybin research on various psychological problems, including anxiety, anorexia and even autism.

Sheppard Pratt is working with the mental health company Compass Pathways to build a complete facility for psychedelic research.

Both Sheppard Pratt and Johns Hopkins University are actively looking for research participants. Click the link for more information.

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