At No Fallen Heroes we are dedicated to the reduction and elimination of veteran suicide. A major part of the effort to eliminate veteran suicide is to successfully treat the risk factors that lead to veteran suicide. One of these major risk factors is severe depression. As we have noted previously, a very promising approach to treating major depression includes the use of psychedelics as an adjunct to professional psychotherapy. In this article we look at the status of psychedelic therapy for depression in regard to studies being carried out at a major US medical center, Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore.
Update of Psilocybin Treatment of Major Depressive Disorders
Previous reports indicated that treatment with the psychedelic psilocybin provided relief of depression for as long as a month. In 2022 completed studies indicate that relief of depression when psilocybin is included in the treatment regime can last as long as a year. The most recent study which reports this information was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on February 15, 2022. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor who ran this study notes that these results come from a structured research setting with extensive preparation and support from trained therapists and clinicians. In other words, this is not the recreational use of psilocybin but use of the drug in conjunction with a professionally tailored psychotherapeutic approach.
History of Psychedelic Research
It has been roughly twenty years since research into the use of psychedelics for treatment of depression and other conditions was resumed after a more than thirty year hiatus. Psilocybin in front and center as a medicine under investigation. This agent which is found in so-called magic mushrooms is known to cause perceptual changes and alterations in awareness of thoughts, feelings, and one’s surroundings. Research to this point has been promising in regard to treating addictive and mental health disorders.
Specifics of Most Recent Psilocybin Study
The way scientific studies like this one are carried out is that patients with a specific illness or condition are enrolled for study. In this case, twenty-seven people with documented histories of long term depression were studied. The average age of this group was forty years, nineteen were women and twenty-one were men. Eighty-nine percent of this group had previous treatment with standard antidepressants and fifty-eight percent had been treated with antidepressants for their current problem.
All patients were treated but they were randomly assigned to two separate treatment groups. One group received psilocybin immediately as part of their treatment and the other group received psilocybin after an eight week period in which all other aspects of treatment were used except for psilocybin. Treatment with psilocybin consisted of two doses given two weeks apart. Follow-up occurred a week after each session and at one, three, six, and twelve months follow-ups. Twenty-four of the twenty-seven enrollees completed all of the program.
Psilocybin Treatment Results
The researchers used the GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale to assess severity of depression at the outset and after treatment. This is a standard rating tool used in psychology and psychiatry. Scores of twenty-four or more indicate severe depression, moderate depression falls in the seventeen to twenty-three range, mild depression falls in the eight to sixteen range, and people who are not depressed score from zero to seven. The majority of participants experienced improvement with average initial scores of 22.8 and 8.7 a week after completing treatment. Follow-up scores of 9.3 on the average were recorded at three months and 7 at six months. A year after finishing psilocybin treatment the average patient score was 7.7 which falls in the high end of the non-depressed range. The researchers classified all of this as 75% treatment response rate and a 58% remission rate at one year post-treatment.
Conclusion of Researchers Regarding Psilocybin for Depression
Researchers in this study noted that the combination of low dosage, immediate benefits, and long duration of treatment results make psilocybin a unique and especially useful adjunct in the treatment of major depression. They note that standard antidepressants require daily, continual dosing, take much longer to work, and cease to work shortly after treatment is stopped. They suspect that psilocybin therapy lasts longer than a year and studies are continuing to see if this is true.