Phase II Study Finds That Psilocybin Plus Therapy Can Help Treat Depression Symptoms

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New research out this week is the latest to show that psilocybin—the active ingredient in magic mushrooms—can be a viable treatment for depression. The randomized Phase II trial found that a single dose of psilocybin combined with therapy significantly reduced people’s depression symptoms when compared to placebo over a six-week period. Those on psilocybin also experienced greater improvements in their quality of life.

The study was published Thursday in the journal JAMA. It involved 104 adults diagnosed with at least moderate clinical depression. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either receive a single 25 milligram dose of psilocybin or niacin, in conjunction with several sessions of therapy. Niacin was chosen as a placebo since it can induce temporary physical sensations like flushed skin, making it harder for volunteers to know which group they belonged to. The therapy included a session on the day of dosing as well as “postdose integration sessions” where people were encouraged to talk about their experiences.

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“These findings add to increasing evidence that psilocybin—when administered with psychological support—may hold promise as a novel intervention” for depression, the authors of this latest study wrote.

Based on these promising results, at least one group has launched a large-scale Phase III trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy this year. These trials, if positive, would provide the evidence needed for regulators to formally approve psilocybin for depression. Researchers elsewhere are studying psilocybin for other conditions like alcohol use disorder. There have also been local efforts in the U.S. to legalize psilocybin for medicinal use.

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