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Active ingredient in magic mushrooms could help treat mental health disorders including PTSD

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An active ingredient in magic mushrooms could help treat mental health disorders including PTSD, research suggests.

Scientists say that small doses of the psychedelic drug psilocybin, found in ‘magic’ mushrooms are not only good at easing disorders resistant to treatment but they also have no short or long-term side effects in healthy people.   

Researchers in a study led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, found that the drug can be given safely in doses of either 10mg or 25mg to up to six patients.   

The report, in partnership with COMPASS Pathways, is an essential first step for experts to prove the safety and feasibility of drug psilocybin as a treatment alongside talking therapies for a range of conditions including treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and PTSD.  

It is the first drug to go head-to-head with the traditional and often ineffective treatments on the market.   

Early research hailed the mushroom as a promising treatment but no human trials have been conducted until now.  

Scientists say that small doses of the psychedelic drug psilocybin, found in 'magic' mushrooms are not only good at easing disorders resistant to treatment but they also have no short or long-term side effects in healthy people (stock image)

Scientists say that small doses of the psychedelic drug psilocybin, found in ‘magic’ mushrooms are not only good at easing disorders resistant to treatment but they also have no short or long-term side effects in healthy people (stock image)

It is the first trial of its kind to thoroughly investigate the magic of the mushroom.

A sample of 89 participants who had not used psilocybin within a year were recruited to take part in the trial.

Then 60 people were picked at random to receive either 10mg or 25mg of the drug in a controlled lab environment.   

The patients received one-to-one support from trained psychotherapists after the doses were administered.  

A placebo drug was given to the remaining 29 participants who acted as the control group and were also given psychological support.  

The participants were closely monitored for six to eight hours and they were then followed up for 12 weeks.

During this time, they were assessed to track the number of possible changes, including sustained attention, memory, planning, as well as their ability to process emotions.

Researchers in a study led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, found that the drug can be given safely in doses of either 10mg or 25mg to up to six patients (stock image)

Researchers in a study led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, found that the drug can be given safely in doses of either 10mg or 25mg to up to six patients (stock image)

Dr James Rucker, a clinical scientist from the National Institute for Health Research, was the study’s lead author.

He said: ‘This rigorous study is an important first demonstration that the simultaneous administration of psilocybin can be explored further.

‘If we think about how psilocybin therapy (if approved) may be delivered in the future, it’s important to demonstrate the feasibility and the safety of giving it to more than one person at the same time, so we can think about how we scale up the treatment.’

Dr Rucker, who is also an honorary consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust added: ‘This therapy has promise for people living with serious mental health problems, like treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and PTSD. 

‘They can be extremely disabling, distressing and disruptive, but current treatment options for these conditions are ineffective or partially effective for many people.’

The participants were closely monitored for six to eight hours and they were then followed up for 12 weeks (stock image)

The participants were closely monitored for six to eight hours and they were then followed up for 12 weeks (stock image)

There were no suggestions that either of the psilocybin doses had any short or long-term negative effects on the participant and no one withdrew from the study.

Professor Guy Goodwin the chief medical officer at COMPASS Pathways, said: ‘This study was an early part of our clinical development programme for COMP360 psilocybin therapy.

‘It explored the safety and feasibility of simultaneous psilocybin administration, with one to one support, in healthy participants, and provided a strong foundation to which we have now added positive results from our Phase IIb trial in 233 patients with TRD, and from our open-label study of patients taking SSRI antidepressants alongside psilocybin therapy.

‘We are looking forward to finalising plans for our phase three programme, which we expect to begin in Q3 2022.’

Since this study was conducted, the researchers have completed phase two of the study, which has explored the efficacy and safety of psilocybin in people living with TRD and PTSD, and are now analysing their findings.

This study was published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. 

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