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Johns Hopkins’ Study Looks at Psilocybin Mushrooms for Major Depression

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A 2022 study from Johns Hopkins Medicine showed substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy paired with supportive psychotherapy. The effects may last at least a year in some patients. The report was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“Our findings add to evidence that, under carefully controlled conditions, this is as promising therapeutic approach that can lead to significant and durable improvements in depression,” said Natalie Gukasyan, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins. “The results we see are in a research setting and require quite a lot of preparation of structured support from trained clinicians and therapists, and people should not attempt to try it on their own.”

For the study, researchers recruited 27 participants with a long-term history of depression. Eighty-eight percent had been treated with standard antidepressant medications and 58 percent reported using antidepressants during current depressive episodes, researchers said.

For most participants, scores from depression decreased from 22.8 at pretreatment to 8.7 after one week, 8.9 at four weeks, 9.3 at three months, 7 at six months and 7.7 at 12 months. Participants also had stable rates of response to the treatment and remission of symptoms, with 75 percent response and 58 percent remission at 12 months, according to researchers.

“Psilocybin not only produces significant and immediate effects, [but] it also has a long duration, which suggests that it may be a uniquely useful new treatment for depression,” said Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins. “Compared to standard antidepressants, which must be taken for long stretches of time, psilocybin has the potential to enduringly relieve the symptoms of depression with one or two treatments.

The researchers emphasized further research is needed, but the efficacy of psilocybin treatment may be “substantially longer” than 12 months.

For more information, visit www.hopkinsmedicine.org.

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