Study: Psilocybin therapy 4 times more effective than antidepressants

Last week, Oregon voted to become the first state to legalize access to psilocybin for all adults. A new study reinforces the idea that voters made a sensible decision.

The preliminary human trials investigated the effect of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to treat the major depressive disorder (MDD). It is estimated that some 300 million people worldwide suffer from the debilitating condition. While a larger Phase 2 trial testing psilocybin for MDD is currently underway, this new study, in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, offers the first peer-reviewed published data showing efficacy for this particular mental health condition.

For the trials, a total of 24 subjects were recruited with at least two-years documented history of depression, with all subjects being required to wean off any anti-depressant treatment before the trial commenced. As reported in NewAtlas, depression was assessed using the standard GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Severe depression scores 24 or higher on the scale, while seven or less is classified as no depression. At the beginning of the study, the average score for the cohort was 23.

The treatment process resembled the general protocol used in most psilocybin studies. Two doses of psilocybin were administered to each subject, spaced two weeks apart. A number of psychotherapy sessions both preceded and followed the active psilocybin sessions.

By the end of the study, 71 percent of the cohort displayed more than a 50 percent reduction in depressive symptoms after four weeks. A month later, the average depression score was done from 23 to 8, and more than half of the group were considered to be in remission. In comparison with studies focusing on the efficacy of antidepressants on MDD, psilocybin therapy was four times more effective.

Of course, the study itself isn’t without limitations. 24 subjects is a small sample size, and there was no placebo control. However, with a larger Phase 2 trial already underway, we can expect to get more accurate data on the therapeutic impact of psilocybin therapy relatively soon. 

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