If you’re new to the world of psychedelics, this is a pretty incredible headline. If you’re well versed in the power of hallucinogens, then you’re probably glad that the medical world of today took yet another step to catch up. No matter how you look at it, progress is progress, and this is definitely progress. So, what am I talking about? The ability for psilocybin (and other psychedelics) to exert long-lasting results for depression patients (as well as those with other psychological ailments.)
New study results tying psilocybin therapy to long-lasting results for major depression, mirrors what was learned about LSD and the treatment of alcoholism and psychotic disorders, in the mid-1900’s. If the drugs had remained legal this would all likely be common knowledge! We’re all about getting you the best news possible on the emerging field of psychedelics. Sign up for The Cannadelics Newsletter to stay informed on everything important going on in the industry now.
Psilocybin therapy and long-lasting results
On February 15th, 2022, this study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology: Efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted treatment for major depressive disorder: Prospective 12-month follow-up. The goal of the study was to investigate how safe and effective psilocybin treatment is for moderate to severe major depressive disorder (MDD). The study looked at a time period of 12 months.
The study included 27 patients from the ages of 21-75, with major depression, who measured over seven on the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The study was randomized in whether each participant would receive treatment immediately, or at an eight-week delay. The treatment regimen was for only two doses of psilocybin, along with assisted therapy. Of the 27 initial participants, 24 made it through both parts of the trial, and were followed for a full year.
According to the study results, all 24 patients showed large decreases from their original baselines at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months on the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale . The general response (over 50% reduction from original baseline) was 75% at 12 months, and the remission rate was 58% at that time. No adverse reactions of a severe level were associated with the therapy. No participants reported using magic mushrooms outside of the study. It was found that how the participants rated the meaning, spiritual experience, and mystical aspects of their sessions, was a good predictor for increased feelings of well-being at the 12 month mark, but not as a predictor for depression improvement.
How was it all measured? Using two scales that measure depression. The “two patient-rated measures of depression (QIDS and BDI-II) showed similar large magnitude and stable antidepressant effects on mean scores and on response and remission rates.” This indicates long-lasting antidepressant effects after only two doses of psilocybin, even a year after taking it.
Of note is the fact that eight of the patients in the study started regular antidepressants at some point during the study. These patients did not exhibit significantly different outcomes at 12 months, than those who did not take antidepressants.
The overall conclusion of the study, was that a two-dose model of psilocybin treatment, along with supportive therapy for MDD, produced significant and long-lasting antidepressant results that lasted for at least as long as 12 months.
Why this isn’t entirely new information
The idea that at least some psychedelic compounds like psilocybin can instigate long-lasting psychological results, is not new. In this case, we’re not looking back to ancient history either, or reading old texts to gain insight. The information we have on psychedelics for treating mental disorders comes from the 1900’s, and started with the synthesis of LSD in 1938 by Albert Hofmann.
LSD, like psilocybin, is a psychedelic compound, but though its created from the ergot fungus, its actually synthetically made, with no natural form of it. Hofmann did some interesting self-experimentation with the compound in the 1940’s after realizing what it was capable of, and later passed on this information to psychiatrists that he knew.
LSD grew in popularity in the 1950’s when different psychiatrists used it for patients with different issues. Two doctors in particular contributed largely to our understanding of what LSD can help with. The first was Humphry Osmond, who began using LSD to treat alcoholism as well as other mental disorders in the 1950’s. Osmond was first to use the term ‘psychedelic’, and much like Hofmann, did his own self-experimentation before giving the compound to patients. In his first experiment with just two patients, after one dose of 200 micrograms of LSD, one stopped drinking immediately, and one quit after six months.
He followed this up with the Saskatchewan trials, aptly named after where the mental hospital in which they took place, was located. These trials were done in collaboration with Abram Hoffer, started in 1951, and went through the 1960’s. Over 2,000 patients were treated as a part of this study, and it was repeatedly shown that a single dose of LSD led to positive results in controlling the addiction, with as many as 40-45% of patients not relapsing in one year after the single treatment.
In the UK, another psychiatrist was also doing some interesting research into LSD, but using psychoneurotic patients rather than alcoholics. Ronald Sandison had already begun using alternative psychotherapy methods including the likes of art and music. He met Albert Hofmann on a trip to Switzerland, and subsequently began treating patients with LSD. In 1954, Sandison published a study he did on 36 psychoneurotic patients who were treated with several smaller doses of LSD (in contrast to Hofmann’s one larger dose treatment). Over the course of a year, 14 patients fully recovered, with all but two of the rest showing some amount of improvement.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Britain’s National Health Service agreed to pay out £195,000 to 43 former Sandison patients in a settlement in 2002. All former patients had been administered LSD, and all cases were about damage suffered. Given the amount of lapsed time, however, it becomes extremely questionable if this was a result of actual damage done, or opportunism to get money for having been a part of a treatment course that used a drug later illegalized. As there aren’t a lot of other complaints of this nature, the latter explanation is certainly considerable.
One of the things that the LSD studies from the 1900’s have in common with this recent psilocybin study which showed long-lasting results, is that the treatments were always coupled with therapy. Though the term ‘psychedelic-assisted therapy’ seems to be the term of choice at this point, at the time of Osmond and Sandison, the term ‘psychedelic therapy’ was used to represent the single dose method, while the term ‘psycholytic therapy’ was used to define Sandison’s model of many smaller doses.
In either case, the idea isn’t to give a patient drugs and hope for the best, its to walk them through the experience, to help them better understand their issues, and to try to help them through those issues during their trip. This is done in a few stages, and follows this general procedure, though its not written in stone, and can be modified based on therapist desires, and regulation. There are three basic steps that make up this therapy.
The first step is preparation – In this step, the therapist gets to know the patient and their problems during regular sessions. It’s also a time to give guidelines to the patient about how to respond to things that come up in their trip. Like opening a door if one is there, or not running from something scary, but facing it and asking it a question. It’s important that the therapist and client have a good relationship, and that the patient is comfortable with the therapist.
The second step is the psychedelic session – This is done when the patient is in a good mindset, and takes place in a comfortable room. The patient takes the drug and has the trip, which is generally attended by more than one therapist, (presumably to ensure no issues since the patient is in an altered state for treatment). The number of people required in the room is something that is subject to relevant regulation. At this time, the therapist will lead the patient through the trip, but perform little-to-no psychoanalysis.
The third step is integration – This takes place shortly after the psychedelic session, and is done in one or more sessions. This is when the therapist can help the patient to process their experience and gain meaning out of it, with the hope of decreasing some of the issues that had brought them into treatment in the first place.
This recent study exemplifying how psilocybin treatment can offer long-lasting therapeutic results should certainly help with the legalization process on the medical front. Psilocybin has already been designated twice as a breakthrough therapy by the FDA for major depression, and is the subject of many trials. Which means we might just have magic mushroom medicine in the next few years.
More research will need to be done on just how long the effects can last, and when a patient would realistically need to ‘re-up’ with another treatment (or if they would at all). It could be that this is specific to individuals, with some needing more treatments, and some needing less. For now, we have a decent understanding that at least some psychedelic compounds produce long-lasting effects, and apart from the issue with Ronald Sandison’s former patients (which is hard to get a clear story on), they seem to be generally safe in testing.
Hello and welcome! You’ve made it to CBDtesters.co, the #1 web spot for the most current and relevant cannabis and psychedelics-related news going on today. Stop by regularly to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing world of cannabis and psychedelics, and sign up for The Cannadelics Newsletter, for your daily dose of industry news.
Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.