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:

Psilocybin for Depression

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 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, and a follow-up examination at three and six months.

Results from our published studies are presented here.

"If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do".

Stephen Fry

Watch Robin Carhart-Harris presenting at the ICPR 2016 how psychedelics could treat depression


Increased amygdala responses to emotional faces after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

Neuropsychopharmacology, 2017

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Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study

Lancet Psychiatry, 2016

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