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(CNN) - "Magic mushrooms" may have taken another step to become a treatment for depression.
The active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms is called psilocybin and a new British study suggests that it could be used safely to treat depression when other drugs have failed, offering hope to millions of patients worldwide.
The study, conducted by King's College London and the mental health company Compass Pathways, administered psilocybin to 89 healthy adult volunteers.
The study compared the effects of 10 mg and 25 mg doses of psilocybin and a placebo.
"There were no serious adverse events" and "there were no negative effects" on cognitive and emotional function among volunteers who took psilocybin, according to a Compass Pathways press release. Instead, volunteers experienced "changes in sensory perception and positive mood disturbance," typical effects of hallucinogenic drugs.
"The results of the study are clinically reassuring and support the further development of psilocybin as a treatment for patients with mental health problems that have not improved with conventional therapy, such as treatment-resistant depression," said James Rucker, one of the researchers. principals of King's College London, in the press release.
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This is only the first of two phases in their tests: the second phase of the trial will involve more than 200 patients with depression in Europe and North America.
More than 264 million people worldwide are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. The most common pharmaceutical treatment is taking antidepressants such as Prozac, which increase serotonin levels in the brain to improve mood.
But this type of antidepressant does not work for everyone, and is usually prescribed as a long-term treatment to maintain effectiveness.
In contrast, hallucinogenic drugs rapidly alter our brain function and, therefore, could treat patients in only a few doses when combined with therapy, the researchers suggested. Although research remains in the early stages, such treatment could focus on a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
This is how it works: theoretically, psilocybin helps "loosen up" the deeply rooted patterns of thought and behavior behind many of these mental disorders, according to King's College London. It could "relax" the parts of our brain that control these behaviors, thus allowing old patterns to change or fade away. Patients who received psilocybin described having returned with "new ideas" and changed perspectives on their difficulties, the university said.
A 2014 study from Imperial College London supports this theory. After psilocybin was injected into the volunteers, the parts of his brain associated with emotional thinking became more active, while the introspective and conscious part of his brain became less active.
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But psilocybin and other hallucinogens still have a long way to be approved, developed and deployed as treatments. Recently, American cities like Denver and Oakland made decisions to decriminalize psilocybin; Throughout the country, it is still listed as a controlled substance in Schedule 1, which means it has no medicinal properties under official US federal policy. UU.