Taking just two doses of a compound found in magic mushrooms can reduce feelings of depression, a new small study suggests.
Researchers found that two-thirds of patients saw a 71 percent reduction of symptoms such as sadness, pessimism and self-criticalness.
Additionally, four-weeks post-treatment, more than half of participants were considered in remission, meaning they no longer qualified as being depressed.
The team, from Johns Hopkins Medicine, says the findings provide evidence that magic mushrooms could be a treatment for mental health issues and even help push legalization of the drug.
It comes as residents in Oregon and Washington, DC voted on Tuesday in favor of measures that will effectively decriminalize magic mushrooms and other organic psychedelic drugs.
A new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that half of depression patients who took two doses of psilocybin, the compound found in magic mushrooms (above), were considered to be in remission
In a 2016 study, the team found that psilocybin relieved anxiety and depression among people with life-threatening cancer diagnoses.
They say these findings suggest the compound may be effective in a much wider population of patients.
‘The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,’ said Dr Alan Davis, an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
‘Because most other depression treatments take weeks or months to work and may have undesirable effects, this could be a game changer if these findings hold up in future ‘gold-standard’ placebo-controlled clinical trials.’
Psilocybin is a naturally-occurring hallucinogenic that is produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms.
It induces feelings of euphoria and sensory distortion similar to drugs such as Lysergic acid diethyla, or LSD, just a few hours after digestion.
The compound is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule-I controlled substance, meaning it has no medicinal properties.
For the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, the team followed 24 participants clinically diagnosed with major depression and with a long documented history of the condition.
The volunteers were required to taper off any antidepressants they were on prior to the trial with the help of their primary care physicians.
All of the patients underwent two five-hour psilocybin sessions under the direction of the researchers.
Participants were given a standard depression assessment tool upon enrollment, at one week post-treatment and four weeks post-treatment.
On the scale, a score of 24 or more indicates severe depression, 17 to 23 is moderate depression, eight to 16 is mild depression and seven or less is no depression.
At the start of the study, participants had an average depression scale rating of 23 but one week and fours weeks after treatment, they had an average score of eight.
For the entire group, 67 percent showed a more than 50 percent reduction in depression symptoms at the one-week follow-up and 71 percent at the four-week follow-up.
Overall, four weeks post-treatment, more than half of participants – 54 percent were considered to be in remission, meaning they no longer qualify as being depressed.
‘Because there are several types of major depressive disorders that may result in variation in how people respond to treatment, I was surprised that most of our study participants found the psilocybin treatment to be effective,’ said Dr Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness.
The team says it will follow the participants for one year after the study to see how long the antidepressant effects of the psilocybin treatment last.
It comes as magic mushrooms were on the ballot on Election Day.
On Tuesday, Oregon became the first state to legalize magic mushroom therapy, which allows trained ‘facilitators’ to give patients psilocybin as a mental health treatment at licensed centers.
And in DC, the majority of voters were in favor of a ballot initiative to decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances.