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News Article

Psilocybin Could Treat Mental Disorders

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 06/15/2022 - 15:15

Clinical trials in the US suggest that one or two doses of psilocybin, given in a therapeutic setting, can make dramatic and long-lasting changes in people suffering from treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, which typically does not respond to traditional antidepressants.

This new study, which began in 2018 and is set to deliver final results in July 2022, has received the designation of “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA due to the preliminary clinical evidence that shows that it may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy.

Psilocybin, extracted from some mushrooms, has historically been used as a psychedelic agent for the treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions. Psilocybin has also shown promise in combating cluster headaches, anxiety, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and various forms of substance abuse.

In previous studies, psilocybin showed efficiency in reducing the effects of depression compared to antidepressants. The study looked at 59 people with moderate to severe depression. The subjects either took a high dose of psilocybin and a placebo, or escitalopram as well as a dose of psilocybin considered to be too low to have an effect. This trial was designed to ensure that both environments were as alike as possible.

About 70 percent of subjects in the psilocybin group responded positively to the treatment, showing a reduction of at least 50 percent in depression scores from baseline. The escitalopram group reported a 48 percent reduction in depression scores. The results also showed a remission in the symptoms of depression, measured as a score of 0 to 5 after six weeks, in 57 percent of the psilocybin group compared with 28 percent in the escitalopram group.

Despite its benefits, studies point out that its use in uncontrolled settings may lead to effects often referred to as a “bad trip.” This refers to an undesired or even traumatic physical and emotional experiences characterized by altered visual perception, extreme distress, fear, lack of coordination, derealization, depersonalization, heightened fright, panic-attacks, traumatic flashbacks, paranoia, delirium, short-term psychosis and other symptomology characteristics of schizophrenia.

New treatments for depression could reduce the burden of mental illnesses for the health system and out-of-pocket health expenditure, as treating mental health costs US$1 trillion globally per year. Mexico’s 2021 health budget allocates MX$3.03 billion (US$ 145 million) to mental health, 9.6 percent less than in 2013.

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst