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Micro-dosing on magic mushrooms could be a cure for depression, according to Australian scientists who are set to test a radical new therapy.
Depression affects about one in seven Australians but there is promising research mounting that psilocybin – which is found naturally in some fungi – may be able to alleviate symptoms.
Danny Brock-Phillips knows all too well how debilitating the condition can be, with the 31-year-old revealing he’s battled suicidal thoughts at various points in his life.
‘It’s usually a really heavy feeling on your chest. You don’t want to get out of bed, he said. ‘Life just doesn’t feel worth it,’ he told 9News.
Magic mushrooms have long been the domain of hippies but scientists are now studying their mental health benefits (stock image)
‘Being on some (traditional) medication can help, but often it doesn’t.
‘I know a lot of people who unfortunately have depression – whether it’s mild or major – so more research into emerging treatments is absolutely needed.’
Senior research fellow at Macquarie University in Sydney Vince Polito is leading the new study in which volunteers will be given a synthetic form of psilocybin in amounts far smaller than the typically studied dose.
Mr Polito said new approaches to treating depression were needed with current medications developed decades ago.
A Macquarie University study is looking at whether micro-dosing the active chemical in the mushrooms (pictured) can treat depression
Danny Brock-Phillips said more research on emerging depression treatments is needed
‘As many as 50 per cent of people don’t really get a mood benefit from traditional anti-depressant drugs,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘There’s fairly compelling evidence from research that psilocybin in high doses when combined with psychotherapy can have a long lasting anti-depressant effects’.
The Macquarie University study will give patients one-fifth of the dose used in previous studies.
‘People aren’t going to be having hallucinations or dramatic shifts in consciousness, we want to find out if at these low doses we still see that positive effect.’
The trial is gearing up to begin later this year, with volunteers being recruited through doctor referrals.
The patients will undergo brain scans and blood tests as part of the program to scientifically back-up any perceived effects.
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PSYCHEDELIC DRUGS THAT ARE BEING STUDIED FOR POTENTIAL MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
In recent years, scientists have increasingly looked to psychedelic drugs as promising therapies for treatment-resistant mental illness.
Currently, such mind-altering drugs are largely illegal.
But ongoing clinical trials suggest that drugs once beloved by hippies and club kids might have medical benefits, too.
Scientists are investigating:
The active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms,’ psilocybin is a powerful hallucinogen.
The chemical acts far more quickly than traditional drugs and is being analysed for use in patients with both depression and PTSD.
Psyilocybin helps encourage neurplasticity and is thought to quiet down the ‘default mode network’ in the brain, and activate the ‘salience network’ that is involved in medication.
There have been several large clinical trials for psilocybin at higher doses.
The club drug MDMA – sometimes called ‘Molly’ – is currently in trials to treat PTSD.
MDMA appears to quiet activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, regions of the brain involved in emotional processing and fear responses, which are over-active in those with PTSD.
Patients participating in MDMA trials take a dose of the drug, and remain in an eight-hour session with two therapists who guide their experience.
The psychedelic compound LSD has a similar structure to the brain chemical, serotonin.
LSD’s discovery played a role in our discovery of how serotonin works in the brain and why imbalances of the neurochemical are involved in depression and anxiety.
Trials using LSD-assisted therapy to treat anxiety are ongoing and have shown early promise.
The club drug and tranquilizer has been in tests for treating depression for several years.
In March 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first nasal spray version of the drug.
Ketamine works much more quickly than traditional antidepressants, and scientists believe it encourages new neural connections that can help overwrite unhealthy, depressive thought patterns.