Magic mushrooms: a single dose of psilocybin reduces depression for several weeks

Magic mushrooms: a single dose of psilocybin reduces depression for several weeks

Take “magic mushrooms” to fight depression? More and more studies attest to the effects of psilocybin in dealing with resistant depression. The latest attests to an effectiveness of several weeks after a single dose. Be careful, however, not to try the experience alone!

In Europe, nearly one person in five has suffered or will suffer from depression during their lifetime. Among these disorders, some are resistant to existing treatments (anti-depressant drugs and psychotherapy). According to some studies, this would represent up to one in 5 patients who do not respond to current treatments, while many of those who see their condition improve initially, relapse later.

Faced with these difficult cases, the use of “magic mushrooms” appears more and more as a credible option. A new study attests to the effects of these substances administered with psychological support in the face of major depressive disorders.

Psilocybin, a powerful psychedelic

Psilocybin is a mind-altering drug found in certain mushrooms. This hallucinogenic substance, whose effects are comparable to certain drugs, modifies the perceptions of those who consume it and can cause visual and auditory distortions.

In 2022, scientists from UC San Francisco and Imperial College London had shown that psilocybin could treat symptoms of depression quickly and over time with effects that lasted for at least 6 months. Two studies based on brain scans of 60 people showed that this hallucinogen reduced connections in brain areas linked to depression and increased connections with other areas of the brain.

However, the results of this study involving 60 patients remained to be confirmed.

A confirmed effect with a single dose

In a new US study, 104 patients aged 21 to 65 recruited from 11 sites in the United States between 2019 and 2022 were divided into two groups. Half received a dose of 25 milligrams of psilocybin and the other half an “active placebo” (in detail 100 milligrams of niacin which can give hot flashes very temporarily – this option allows choice was made so that patients could not know which product they were receiving). Symptoms of depression were assessed regularly (at 2, 8, 15, 29 and 43 days after intake), as well as through patient interviews.

Result: Patients reported greater improvement in their symptoms of depression within 8 days of taking and with maintenance throughout the 6-week follow-up period. However, not all participants benefited from this effect. The substance was “generally well tolerated“, most of the negative side effects were mild or moderate (headache, nausea, hallucinations…).

Do not try alone!

These findings add to growing evidence that psilocybin, when given with psychological support, may show promise as a new intervention for major depressive disorder. Studies will nevertheless have to make it possible to better determine which patients will be able to benefit from it (even if today, the antidepressants used do not work in all patients either) and if the effect is maintained beyond the period of follow-up or whether patients will require a new dose or maintenance treatment.

Of course, patients with depression should never take psilocybin alone. These results stem from controlled trials in which the administration of psilocybin is accompanied by psychological monitoring and precise medical supervision.