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Psilocybin-assisted therapy is an effective treatment for depression up to one year after administration

A follow-up study has found that the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, can be effective in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for up to one year after sufferers are administrated the drug. 

A study that was published last year, found psilocybin-assisted therapy to be effective in combating MDD for up to four weeks after administration of two doses of the substance. All of the participants suffered from long-term depressive disorders and had experienced at least two years of persistent symptoms before the study began. The study was carried out by researchers at John Hopkins University in Maryland, USA.

Researchers from the same university conducted the follow-up study to assess the efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted therapy on MDD through the 12 months since the original study was carried out. They wished to address the lack of supporting data for how psilocybin-assisted therapy can manage patients’ symptoms of MDD in the long term. 

In the original study, researchers used a randomised, wait-list controlled study that involved 27 patients between the age of 21-75, all of whom suffered from moderate to severe unipolar depression. Levels of depression were assessed via the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The participants received two doses of psilocybin separately, coupled with supportive psychotherapy. They were monitored for the 12 months following their second dose via follow-up visits. 

The patients had their depression scores assessed during follow-up visits at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months past the second dose of psilocybin. Researchers found a strong decrease in the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. At 12 months 75% of participants were considered to have responded favourably to the treatment, and 58% were considered to be in remission. No serious side effects or adverse events were judged to be associated with the psilocybin.

“Our findings add to evidence that, under carefully controlled conditions, this is a promising therapeutic approach that can lead to significant and durable improvements in depression,” says Natalie Gukasyan, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

The researchers finish their conclusions with, “these findings demonstrate that the substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy may be durable at least through 12 months following acute intervention in some patients.”.

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