Psilocybin Mushrooms Approved for Depression Treatment
On August 22, 2018 the company COMPASS Pathways issued a press release informing the public about the FDA’s approval of their landmark study using psilocybin to treat people with treatment resistant depression. Their CEO and CMO have both expressed excitement and positive expectations from this news, as this was the last federal regulatory body’s approval they needed to secure to move forward with the largest international study of psilocybin to date!
The company is already conducting one of the largest phase 1 trials on the subject, and this will be a phase 2 study of 216 people across Europe and North America. This trial will utilize a combination of counseling and administration of psilocybin in a range of dosages to help determine effectiveness against treatment resistant depression. If successful, the company says that will lead to a phase 3 study next and that could lead to it being classified as a new drug by the FDA. That could take 5 years or more, but the writing on the wall says that if all the previous studies’ results weren’t faked or subject to false conclusions then it is only a matter of time.
Psilocybin has been used in many studies since the 1950’s, and helped make Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (better known now as Ram Dass) famous for their own work with it at Harvard. Terence McKenna built a career on his usage of the psilocybin mushrooms and believed it to connect him to a sentient force greater than himself. Maria Sabina, the shaman who first revealed the mushroom to the western scientists held a similar belief. Now this study is helping pave the way to understanding what’s really going on with the usage of psilocybin, which has the root molecule of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT or N,N-DMT) a naturally occuring Tryptamine molecule. The body naturally releases it during Rapid Eye Movement (R.E.M.) sleep, which is the part of the sleep cycle that dreams occur in.
Psilocybin occurs naturally in the Psilocybe Semilanceata genus of mushroom, it is also known as one of the “magic mushrooms”. We know that because it has an effect on us that we have similar compounds our own bodies produce. We know that 60-70% of patients in previous studies have had significant positive effects from a single dosage a year later. We know that it is a hallucinogenic property that causes a dissolution of identity, and that the therapy provided with it can help guide us to creating a better sense of self through its use. This study will help us learn what dosage range coupled with what therapy method is optimally effective for patients.
The important takeaway from this is that the magic is not inside the mushroom alone, but in the effective use of new cognitive models from its use. This comes from the therapy being combined with it, and paves the way for many new possibilities for over 100 million people with treatment resistant depression to be able to finally find solace from their internal torment.