Psilocybin lit up the brains of people with severe depression in small study

Psilocybin image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A British study enrolling 43 people with severe depression found that the magic mushroom compound psilocybin bested the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram).

The blinded study published in Nature tracked patients’ symptoms and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain’s metabolic function.

Those who received psilocybin weeks showed significant and sustained reductions in depressive symptoms, while fMRI scans showed prominent neural activity throughout the brain that lasted three weeks. In addition, the brain activity of psilocybin recipients was similar to that of a healthy brain.

Conversely, those who received Lexapro had a slight improvement in symptoms and neural activity that continued to be limited to defined brain regions.

Last year, a small Phase 2 study published in NEJM found that psilocybin…

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As interest in psychedelic medicine grows, Big Pharma sits on the sidelines

Image by Ben Johnson from Pixabay

While Big Pharma has yet to embrace psychedelics as potential treatments for depression and other psychiatric disorders, interest in psychedelic medicine is building. 

Earlier this month, Nature Medicine published a Phase 3 study indicating that psychotherapy assisted with methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) was a more effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than therapy alone. The study authors concluded that MDMA yielded a larger effect size than antidepressants Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine).

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in 2017. Approval could come in 2023, according to The New York Times. 

[Related: Debate series considers the therapeutic promise and pitfalls of psychedelics]

Last month, NEJM summarized the results of a Phase 2 study that found that psil…

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Psilocybin narrowly beat Lexapro in small depression study

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The magic mushroom compound psilocybin appeared to be slightly more effective than the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor escitalopram (Lexapro) in a small study recently published in NEJM.  

In the Phase 2 study, which tracked 59 patients over six weeks, the psilocybin group had an approximately 8-point average drop in the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (Self-Report) questionnaire with 16 questions (QIDS-SR16). The 29 patients had a 6-point reduction on the 27-point scale. Higher scores on the scale correlate to more severe depression. 

The researchers concluded that there was not “a significant difference in antidepressant effects between psilocybin and escitalopram” in the study. Secondary outcomes, however, tended to favor psilocybin over escitalopram. The researchers added that more studies are needed to evaluate psilocybin against conventional antide…

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