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News (Media Awareness Project) - UK: Could Magic Mushrooms Help The Fight Against Depression?
Title:UK: Could Magic Mushrooms Help The Fight Against Depression?
Published On:2012-01-24
Source:Independent (UK)
Fetched On:2012-01-25 06:02:18

Magic mushrooms could one day be prescribed for depression after
Professor David Nutt, the controversial sacked government drugs
advisor, claimed research on healthy volunteers proved what a mistake
it was to abandon therapeutic psychedelic drugs more than 50 years ago.

The first clinical trial into magic mushroom therapy could start by
the end of the year after two small studies suggested the active
chemical, psilocybin, had a profound affect on key regions of the brain.

Professor Nutt's team, at Imperial College London, hope to test the
hallucinogen on depressed patients who have not benefited from
antidepressants or behavioural therapy.

Psilocybin would be infused into their bloodstreams before a
psychotherapy session, tailored to elicit positive memories. If
funding is approved by the Medical Research Council it would
represent a major step towards mainstream rehabilitation for such
drugs since LSD was banned in 1966.

The first study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences, involved scanning the brains of 30 people given the drug
intravenously to measure changes in blood flow and activity.
Unexpectedly, the MRI scans showed the drug caused activity to
decrease in hub areas with dense connections to other areas. It
disconnected two key hubs: the medial prefrontal cortex, which is
hyperactive in people with depression, and the posterior cingulate
cortex, thought to play a role in self-awareness.

The second study, to be published in the British Journal of
Psychiatry on Thursday, found magic mushrooms helped 10 patients
vividly recall positive memories and feel generally happier in the
following days.

Professor Nutt said: "This drug has such a fundamental affect on the
brain we should be trying to understand why."

Professor Nick Craddock, from Cardiff University, said much more was
needed to convince psychiatrists that psilocybin was safe, effective
and acceptable.

Psychedelic drugs: a history

The man regarded as the father of psychedelic drugs, Albert Hofmann,
a Swiss chemist, first discovered LSD in 1938 and went on to isolate
the active chemical in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, and several other
naturally occurring hallucinogens.

* In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers carried out studies on around
40,000 patients and published 1,000 papers on psychedelic
drug-assisted psychotherapy.

Such work was brought to an abrupt halt when the drugs were banned,
making research virtually impossible.

* In 2010, American researchers published the first-ever clinical
trial into the effects of MDMA, the active ingredient of ecstasy
pills, found it to be safe and effective in treating patients with
post traumatic stress disorder in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Professor Nutt is hoping to replicate the study on UK veterans
suffering from PTSD who have not been helped by conventional therapies.

* The therapeutic benefits of cannabis for patients with multiple
sclerosis continue to be studied, 11 years after the active chemical
compound, cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was first shown to
reduce muscle tremor and spasticity by scientists at University College London.
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