Depression (especially in combination with anxiety) is a very common mental disorder, affecting up to 1 in 5 people in their lifetime. It is defined as “a medical illness that affects how you feel, think, and behave, causing persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. It is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment.” (DSM-5).
Current behavioural treatments and medications are effective for some people, however a considerable percentage do not respond to them, leading to ‘electroshock therapy’ (ECT) as a treatment of last resort.
Building on the literature from the 50s and 60s, which suggested that psychedelics might be effective in treating depression, our Programme investigates the effectiveness of:
In collaboration with Prof David Nutt and Dr Robin Carhart-Harris in the Beckley / Imperial Research Programme, we recently completed a Medical Research Council-funded clinical trial, or ‘feasibility study,’ of psilocybin in the treatment of depression. Patients with treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder were given psilocybin twice, and on each occasion, spent several hours in a positive setting (including preparation, guided imagery, classical music, and aftercare). Patients then filled out questionnaires measuring different dimensions of depression, to test for changes over the course of the study. The study also included a brain imaging component, with patients undergoing fMRI before and after treatment. The extremely promising results are forthcoming.
It will be interesting to investigate whether LSD shows similar effects.
Lancet Psychiatry, 2016
Psilocybin for Depression
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