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Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study

Overview of attention for article published in The Lancet Psychiatry, May 2016
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Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study
Published in
The Lancet Psychiatry, May 2016
DOI 10.1016/s2215-0366(16)30065-7
Pubmed ID

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, Carhart-Harris, Robin L, Bolstridge, Mark, Rucker, James, Day, Camilla M J, Erritzoe, David, Kaelen, Mendel, Bloomfield, Michael, Rickard, James A, Forbes, Ben, Feilding, Amanda, Taylor, David, Pilling, Steve, Curran, Valerie H, Nutt, David J, Carhart-Harris, RL, Bolstridge, M, Rucker, J, Day, CM, Erritzoe, D, Kaelen, M, Bloomfield, M, Rickard, JA, Forbes, B, Feilding, A, Taylor, D, Pilling, S, Curran, VH, Nutt, DJ


Psilocybin is a serotonin receptor agonist that occurs naturally in some mushroom species. Recent studies have assessed the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for various conditions, including end-of-life anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and smoking and alcohol dependence, with promising preliminary results. Here, we aimed to investigate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of psilocybin in patients with unipolar treatment-resistant depression. In this open-label feasibility trial, 12 patients (six men, six women) with moderate-to-severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. There was no control group. Psychological support was provided before, during, and after each session. The primary outcome measure for feasibility was patient-reported intensity of psilocybin's effects. Patients were monitored for adverse reactions during the dosing sessions and subsequent clinic and remote follow-up. Depressive symptoms were assessed with standard assessments from 1 week to 3 months after treatment, with the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (QIDS) serving as the primary efficacy outcome. This trial is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN14426797. Psilocybin's acute psychedelic effects typically became detectable 30-60 min after dosing, peaked 2-3 h after dosing, and subsided to negligible levels at least 6 h after dosing. Mean self-rated intensity (on a 0-1 scale) was 0·51 (SD 0·36) for the low-dose session and 0·75 (SD 0·27) for the high-dose session. Psilocybin was well tolerated by all of the patients, and no serious or unexpected adverse events occurred. The adverse reactions we noted were transient anxiety during drug onset (all patients), transient confusion or thought disorder (nine patients), mild and transient nausea (four patients), and transient headache (four patients). Relative to baseline, depressive symptoms were markedly reduced 1 week (mean QIDS difference -11·8, 95% CI -9·15 to -14·35, p=0·002, Hedges' g=3·1) and 3 months (-9·2, 95% CI -5·69 to -12·71, p=0·003, Hedges' g=2) after high-dose treatment. Marked and sustained improvements in anxiety and anhedonia were also noted. This study provides preliminary support for the safety and efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and motivates further trials, with more rigorous designs, to better examine the therapeutic potential of this approach. Medical Research Council.

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Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Denmark 2 <1%
India 1 <1%
Portugal 1 <1%
Switzerland 1 <1%
Australia 1 <1%
United Kingdom 1 <1%
Brazil 1 <1%
United States 1 <1%
Unknown 210 96%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 60 27%
Researcher 38 17%
Student > Master 32 15%
Student > Ph. D. Student 25 11%
Other 23 11%
Other 41 19%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 59 27%
Psychology 50 23%
Neuroscience 30 14%
Social Sciences 21 10%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 13 6%
Other 46 21%