Doctors have found potential new hope for patients who suffer from severe and treatment-resistant depression: magic mushrooms. In a study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, researchers found that the active hallucinatory component in shrooms (psilocybin) helped relieve symptoms of depression in a clinical trial that lasted several years.
The study consisted of a volunteer group of six men and six women who were diagnosed with "moderate-to-severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression." The patients were given varying dosages of psilocybin on a weekly basis as a part of the clinical trial. The study noted that all patients experienced significant relief from depression one week and three months into their treatment, leading the researchers to conclude that there is reason to further study the therapeutic possibilities for psilocybin.
But the study's participants experienced some negative side effects as well. Notably, all 12 of the patients experienced anxiety soon after taking their dose of psilocybin, and nine experienced confusion or trouble processing their thoughts. However, patients also reported that the treatment helped to alleviate anxiety overall, according to the study's conclusions.
The results do not demonstrate that psilocbin can or should be used for self-medication, says the study's lead author, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris with Imperial College London. Carhart-Harris told The Guardian,
Psychedelic drugs have potent psychological effects and are only given in our research when appropriate safeguards are in place, such as careful screening and professional therapeutic support. I wouldn’t want members of the public thinking they can treat their own depressions by picking their own magic mushrooms. That kind of approach could be risky.
The research team further told The Guardian that it's as yet unclear whether or not the hallucinatory or psychedelic components of psilocybin that helped to alleviate depression and anxiety, or if other properties in the drug have an impact on depression.
While it's not exactly clear how the drug worked, it's clear that something helped the trial's patients, and the researchers have cause to believe additional studies into the treatment possibilities for psilocybin are warranted.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris (the study's lead author) did not immediately reply to Complex's request for comment.