Psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression

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After decades of association with hippie culture, psychedelics may be the answer to treating rising rates of depression and anxiety.

Psilocybin is the natural active ingredient in psychoactive or “magic” mushrooms.

Dr Alana Roy is a Psychologist, Academic and Practice Leader for Psychological Services in Melbourne Institute of Mental Medicine. She says psilocybin shows promising results when used in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

“Current research on psilocybin shows that if taken in a clinical setting, it is safe, non-toxic, and non-addictive,” says Alana.

“From the results, we know there are so many benefits to looking at psilocybin with cluster headaches and migraines, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia. We are watching now [treating] addictions such as alcoholism and smoking…anxiety and depression.

psychedelic science

Research, says Alana, shows that psilocybin promotes neuroplasticity. (It is the ability of the nervous system to modify its activity in response to external stimuli). It has also been shown to increase empathy, pro social behavior and our connection to ourselves, others and the world around us.

It’s something quite important. But what’s most exciting for Alana and her colleagues is how transformative psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can be in addressing the root cause of a client’s mental illness.

“We know from neuroscience and brain imaging that when the default mode network in our brain, which houses our rumination, our personal stories, our ego, our trauma – the things that keep us locked into thought patterns rigid – when turned off by high doses of psilocybin, it opens people up to a whole range of phenomena and that’s where healing happens with psychotherapy,” says Alana.

herbal medicine

Although this sounds revolutionary, it is not new. Researchers pick up where they left off nearly 50 years ago.

In the 1950s and 1960s, psilocybin and other hallucinogens were used in research and therapy. They showed promise also at the time.

Then came the American war on drugs in the 1970s and 1980s, which stop everything …until recently.

In more recent times, tech bros in silicon valley have turned to microdosing to reduce anxiety and improve creativity and focus. (Even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs experienced with LSD at the time).

Lately there has been a growing interest in the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms of all kinds, supported by a growing body of evidence.

A new perspective needed

Alana says perhaps the biggest factor is the mental health fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with little innovation in drug therapies since. antidepressants were invented 50 years ago.

Current drug therapies do not work for everyone and often come at a high cost.

“What we do know is that antidepressants, while effective for some, often have significant side effects and don’t always deliver the results our clients deserve,” says Alana.

Psilocybin has the potential to permanently resolve depression and anxiety, without the need for long-term treatments or prescriptions.

“However, there is the possibility for a drug to be truly empowering, as opposed to a drug that suppresses or minimizes distress. We can empower people to truly transform their suffering.

Empowering People to Heal

In her role at the Mind Medicine Institute, Alana provides psychotherapeutic support to participants in psychedelic research, including for an upcoming study in partnership with Monarch.

As part of the study, 100 healthy participants will receive a dose of psilocybin and another 100 will receive a dose of MDMA.

“The main purpose of this project is to determine if there are any changes in the brain, as a result of any of these drugs,” explains Alana, “and also to track any changes in mood, personality, beliefs, social engagement and how these substances might be related to neural changes in the brain.

Future clinical development is also potentially planned for Western Australia.

Based in Sydney Woke Pharmawhose co-founder and CEO is based in Perth Nick Woolfprovides two trials on psilocybin.

The first 260-participant trial, in partnership with a leading New South Wales university, will examine microdosing (one milligram) on moderate depression without psychotherapeutic support.

The second trial of 100 participants is in partnership with Imperial College London and Drug Science UK. This trial will have research sites across Australia, including potentially one at UWA. It will look at treatment-resistant depression with a therapeutic dose (25 milligrams) and include psychotherapy.

Both studies will use standard depression rating scales and other psychological and neuropsychological measures, such as neuroimaging.

No mushrooms were harmed

The studies use synthetic psilocybin, not naturally grown mushrooms.

Nick says there are a number of reasons for this, particularly when trying to convince government regulators to approve its use in Australia.

Making psilocybin improves the drug’s stability and consistency, Nick explains, while increasing the rate at which it’s released in the body. It also makes it patentable, which appeals to pharmaceutical companies like Nick’s.

On the other hand, says Nick, it may not be as effective as natural products. “If you take a natural product, it could contain other potential actives,” he says.

“But from a regulatory point of view, we want to ensure as smooth a path as possible.”

This article originally appeared on Particle. Read the original article.

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