Recent clinical trials are reporting marked improvements in mental health outcomes with psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy.
Here, we report on safety and efficacy outcomes for up to 6 months in an open-label trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.
Twenty patients (six females) with (mostly) severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. Depressive symptoms were assessed from 1 week to 6 months post-treatment, with the self-rated QIDS-SR16 as the primary outcome measure.
Treatment was generally well tolerated. Relative to baseline, marked reductions in depressive symptoms were observed for the first 5 weeks post-treatment (Cohen’s d = 2.2 at week 1 and 2.3 at week 5, both p < 0.001); nine and four patients met the criteria for response and remission at week 5. Results remained positive at 3 and 6 months (Cohen’s d = 1.5 and 1.4, respectively, both p < 0.001). No patients sought conventional antidepressant treatment within 5 weeks of psilocybin. Reductions in depressive symptoms at 5 weeks were predicted by the quality of the acute psychedelic experience.
Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessions and remained significant 6 months post-treatment in a treatment-resistant cohort. Psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression that warrants further research in double-blind randomised control trials.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., Bolstridge, M., Day, C. M. J., Rucker, J., Watts, R., Erritzoe, D. E., … & Rickard, J. A. (2017). Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up. Psychopharmacology, 1-10. 10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x