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A Ray of Hope for Stubborn Depression: Psilocybin and Emotional Support


Data on psilocybin effectiveness in depression therapy
Depression is when people feel really, really sad for a long time. Sometimes, regular ways to help, like talking to a special person or taking medicine, don’t work for everyone. So, scientists are exploring something exciting – a special thing called psilocybin found in some mushrooms. They want to see if it can make people with depression, who don’t feel better with the usual help, feel happier.

The Essence of Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a magical compound found in certain mushrooms. These are not the mushrooms you put on pizza; they’re special mushrooms. Psilocybin can change the way you think and see things. It works with a part of your brain that affects how you feel. Over the years, scientists have turned their focus toward psilocybin as a potential treatment for patients who have depression that didn’t get better with traditional medications.
Psilocybin mushroom properties

The Study Design

In one study, to check if psilocybin can help with sadness, scientists talked to 12 people who were very sad and not getting better with regular help. These people were given two oral doses of psilocybin, one week apart. They also had someone to talk to and help them feel comfortable before, during, and after they took the psilocybin. The scientists wanted to see if the people felt any changes because of the psilocybin and if it helped with their sadness.

The Effects of Psilocybin

What happened when they took the psilocybin? The effects started about 30 to 60 minutes after taking it, and they got stronger after 2 to 3 hours. Then, after about 6 hours, the immediate effects went away. People who took it said they felt the effects at around 0.51 for the smaller dose and 0.75 for the bigger dose on a scale from 0 to 1. This means it had a pretty big impact on them, but it didn’t cause them any big problems. Some people felt a bit anxious, confused, nauseous, or had a headache, but it didn’t last long.

Relief from Depression

Psilocybin's role in drug rehabilitation therapy

Perhaps the most significant finding was the substantial reduction in depressive symptoms observed one week and three months after the second dose of psilocybin. Patients reported not only a decrease in their depressive symptoms but also a reduction in anxiety levels. Additionally, they expressed an increased sense of enjoyment in their lives. These positive outcomes suggest that psilocybin could hold promise for those dealing with depression that hasn’t responded to conventional treatments.

Implications of the Study

The study offers a glimmer of hope for individuals who have been battling depression that doesn’t easily respond to standard anti-depression treatments. Psilocybin, when administered with emotional support, appears to be a safe and potentially effective alternative.

Scientists are also finding success using psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs for other mental health issues. Issues like:

Anxiety (including transient anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD)

When people have anxiety, they feel really worried and scared a lot. And PTSD is when people feel super scared because of something bad that happened to them. Some studies have shown that when people with these problems take psilocybin with a guide to help them, they start feeling better. They become less anxious, and their PTSD gets a bit easier to handle. This is still being studied, but it gives us hope that psilocybin might help people with these tough feelings.

Some of the most encouraging randomized clinical trials have been with patients with end-of-life anxiety from advanced-stage cancer. The good news is that these tests have shown that when these people try psilocybin, they start feeling less scared and anxious. They feel very connected to nature and the possibilities of what comes after dying.


Sometimes people have a hard time stopping smoking or drinking too much, or when they can’t control their eating or gambling. Even if someone keeps doing something over and over, like checking things a lot (obsessive-compulsive disorder), psilocybin could make it easier for them to stop. Some studies have shown that when people with these issues try psilocybin with the help of a guide, they find it easier to break these habits and get better. It’s like a helping hand to make things better, and researchers are still learning more about it.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to recognize that this study is only a stepping stone toward understanding the potential of psilocybin as a treatment option for depression. More comprehensive research is required to validate these findings, including studies with larger sample sizes and rigorous designs.

Implications of psilocybin research in depression treatment

Future Directions

As we eagerly anticipate future research, it’s important to consider the potential implications and challenges that may arise in the pursuit of psilocybin as a treatment for depression.
Psilocybin Future Research

Expanding the Sample Size

The study, with its limited cohort of 12 patients, provides a preliminary understanding of psilocybin’s potential in treating treatment-resistant depression. Future research must involve larger and more diverse groups to account for individual variations in response to the treatment.

Addressing Long-Term Effects

While the study reported positive results one week and three months after the psilocybin sessions, it is vital to explore the long-term effects of psilocybin treatment. Understanding the durability of these effects and the potential need for follow-up sessions is essential.

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

In this study, it was important to have people who were like friendly guides (doctors or therapists) to help those using psilocybin. These guides made sure the patients felt safe and comfortable. It’s like having a buddy when you’re exploring something new. Scientists also think that if they use psilocybin along with talking to someone who helps you understand your feelings, it could be even more helpful for people who are sad. So, having both the magic stuff and someone to talk to might be a good way to help people feel better.

Future directions in psilocybin research

Safety Considerations

Just like when you’re trying out any new activity, it’s really important to make sure it’s safe. So, when scientists are studying psilocybin to help people, they want to be sure it won’t cause any harm. They need to check if there are any bad reactions or if it affects a person’s body and mind for a long time. It’s like being extra careful to keep everyone healthy when they’re trying something new.


Psilocybin Treatment Potential

In the relentless quest to find better treatments for depression, psilocybin, a naturally occurring substance, has shown promise. It has been shown, that when administered with emotional support, it is a valuable tool to treat treatment-resistant depression. It also elicited feelings of reduced anxiety and increased enjoyment in the lives of the participants.

These findings offer a ray of hope for those who have struggled with depression that don’t respond to traditional treatments. However, it is crucial to remember that these studies are beginning explorations, and more extensive research is needed to confirm and expand upon these results.

The potential of psilocybin as a treatment option for depression is an exciting prospect, but it must be approached with care and thorough investigation. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the human mind and explore alternative therapies, the future may hold new and effective solutions for those suffering from depression.

One Last Thing

If you’re ready to talk to a person about whether therapeutic psilocybin might be of help, please don’t hesitate to contact our experts:

Psilocybin Research Implications


[1]Psilocybin with Psychological Support for Treatment-Resistant Depression: An Open-Label Feasibility Study

Authors: Robin L Carhart-Harris, Mark Bolstridge, James Rucker, Camilla M J Day, David Erritzoe, Mendel Kaelen, Michael Bloomfield, James A Rickard, Ben Forbes, Amanda Feilding, David Taylor, Steve Pilling, Valerie H Curran, David J Nutt.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 3, Issue 7, 2016.

Read the full study

[2]Single-Dose Psilocybin for a Treatment-Resistant Episode of Major Depression

Authors: Guy M. Goodwin, Scott T. Aaronson, Oscar Alvarez, Peter C. Arden, Annie Baker, James C. Bennett, Catherine Bird, Renske E. Blom, Christine Brennan, Donna Brusch, Lisa Burke, Kete Campbell-Coker, et al.

Read the full study

[3]Single-Dose Psilocybin Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

Published in JAMA Network.

Read the full study


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