American researchers have been given the green light to start clinical trials testing the use of psilocybin to help people with treatment-resistant depression.
Compass Pathways, a company funded by merchant banker/fin-tech investor Christian Angermayer and billionaire Peter Thiel (the co-founder of PayPal), has recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to experiment with the psychoactive ingredient found in magic mushrooms.
According Compass Pathways, researchers aim to build on “a number of small academic studies that have suggested psilocybin therapy provides immediate and sustained reductions in depression and other illnesses, following a single treatment.”
“Depression is the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide, and treatment-resistant depression affects more than 100 million people. It is a huge unmet need and the trial will teach us more about how this new approach might address it,” said George Goldsmith, chairman and co-founder of Compass Pathways.
Similar studies are now being conducted in the UK, Europe, Canada and North America, but Australia is lagging behind its western counterparts in the psychedelic research renaissance.
Dr Stephen Bright, vice-president of Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine, recently told the Australian Psychologist journal that he has been urging his colleagues to start a formal psychedelic research program for some time.
Dr Bright said his enthusiasm has, however, been met with “a lot of academic conservatism” because there is “a vested interest in maintaining the current paradigm”.
He also said that a lack of financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies meant a diminished desire to fund research.
So, for now, Dr Bright and many other psychiatric health professionals are hoping the outcomes of this new research will spark more interest in our own backyard.
Who knows, magic mushrooms could be just what some people need to help lift the cloud of depression and have them basking in sunshine and rainbows (with the occasional psychedelic fractal).