People with major depression experienced “clinically significant sustained reduction” in their symptoms after just one dose of psilocybin, a new study published by the American Medical Association (AMA) found.
A team of 18 researchers from institutions including Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center investigated the association, carrying out a randomized clinical trial involving 104 adults with major depressive disorder (MDD).
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Thursday, people with major depressive disorder were administered 25mg of synthetic psilocybin at 11 different clinics across the U.S. and monitored for changes in symptoms over the course of six weeks.
Within eight days, patients who received the psychedelic-assisted treatment, which was also accompanied by psychotherapy sessions, reported reduced depressive symptoms that “maintained across the 6-week follow-up period, without attenuation of the effect.”
“Psilocybin administered with psychological support was associated with a rapid and sustained antidepressant effect, measured as change in depressive symptom scores, compared with active placebo.”
One metric that researchers used was what’s known as the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), which measures the severity of depressive symptoms on a scale of 0 (lowest level of depression) to 60 (highest level of depression).
Prior to treatment, the average score for the participants was about 35. The group that received psilocybin saw their symptoms decrease significantly by day eight, and ultimately saw their scores drop an average of 19 points by the end of the trial. The average score for the placebo group, by contrast, only dropped about seven points.
In this study, a 25-mg dose of #psilocybin was well tolerated and may hold promise as a treatment for major depressive disorder when combined with psychological support. https://t.co/VBHc43RjH3 pic.twitter.com/VORicUxV7U
— JAMA (@JAMA_current) August 31, 2023
“Psilocybin also improved psychosocial functioning compared with” the placebo, the researchers found. “Psilocybin treatment was associated with improvement in various exploratory end points, including reduced overall disease severity, anxiety and self-reported depressive symptoms, and improved quality of life.”
“Psilocybin treatment did not evince the type of emotional blunting reported with standard antidepressant medicines,” it says, meaning the psychedelic therapy didn’t create a feeling of numbness or apathy. What’s more, the psychedelic treatment did not result in any “serious adverse events.”
“No serious treatment-emergent adverse events occurred.”
“These findings add to evidence that psilocybin—when administered with psychological support—may hold promise as a novel intervention for MDD,” the study authors said.
This is just one of the latest examples of research finding potential therapeutic applications of psychedelics as lawmakers and advocates across the country work to enact reform.
For example, a first-of-its-kind analysis released in June offered novel insights into the mechanisms through which psychedelic-assisted therapy appears to help people struggling with alcoholism.
Another study published earlier this month found that administering a small dose of MDMA along with psilocybin or LSD appears to reduce feelings of discomfort like guilt and fear that are sometimes side effects of consuming so-called magic mushrooms or LSD alone.
At the federal level, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently started soliciting proposals for a series of research initiatives meant to explore how psychedelics could be used to treat drug addiction, with plans to provide $1.5 million in funding to support relevant studies.