Magic Mushroom Compound May Alleviate Severe Depression, Historic Study Finds

Taking just one dose of “magic mushrooms” may help alleviate severe depression, according to a new landmark study.

The psychedelic compound found in the mushrooms offered modest relief of depression in patients who had already been treated unsuccessfully with traditional antidepressant medication, according to trial results results published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The benefits of the hallucinogen waned over time, but just a single dose was sufficient to offer some reprieve.

The study, commissioned by London-based firm Compass Pathways, tested the chemical psilocybin in 233 adults across the United States, Canada and Europe. The patients were guided through a six-to-eight hour hallucinogenic “trip” by a mental health professional, and all three dose groups experienced some improvement in symptoms.

The trial is the largest to date to test the effects of psilocybin on depression, as Compass Pathways works to develop the chemical for commercial use. The research was carried out by academics from a number of institutions including King’s College London and Columbia University.

Thirty-seven percent of participants in the high-dose group experienced substantial improvement three weeks after receiving their dose of the chemical, and 20% continued to experience substantial improvement at the three month mark.

The U.S. government classifies psilocybin as a controlled substance with no medical use, although there are currently 180 ongoing studies of psychedelics for the purpose of treating depression, according to the Associated Press.

Some scientists believe that the chemical may help treat depression by stimulating parts of the brain that regulate serotonin, while others caution against making too big a leap based on the single study. (RELATED: Magic Mushroom Compound May Alleviate Severe Depression, Historic Study Finds)

“I think we should be taking our foot off the gas a little bit and figure out exactly how they (psychedelics) work in order to optimize it,” Yale University psychiatry professor Philip Corlett told AP. “They don’t work for everybody.”

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