Drug Regulations Obstruct “Magic Mushrooms” Trial

Drug Regulations Obstruct “Magic Mushrooms” Trial

April 10th, 2013

Strict British and European drug regulations hinder a potentially groundbreaking clinical trial researching the use of “magic mushrooms” to alleviate depression.

In March Professor, David Nutt, President of British Neuroscience Association and Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, was awarded an $844,000 grant from the British Medical Research Council to head a full clinical study. The trial will be one of the world’s first to explore the use of the hallucinogenic ingredient psilocybin, on the street known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”, to help treat patients suffering from depression.

Psilocybin Mushrooms on Display

Professor Nutt’s trial uses 60 patients who failed to respond to at least two other forms of treatment. 30 patients will be given a placebo while 30 receive a synthetic form of psilocybin. Patients will be administered a low dose of the drug on their first session to ensure that there are no adverse responses. Upon their second session, they will be given a higher dose. A third session will only occur if found necessary. During these sessions, patients will have “guided talking therapy” in order to explore negative thought patterns and issues that are troubling them. After the trial ends, doctors will follow up with patients for at least a year.

The study proves to be highly controversial with potential to radically transform the way doctors treat depression. The issues ahead of Professor Nutt make it appear that this innovative study may be deemed unsuccessful before it even goes to trial.

Mushrooms with the active ingredient psilocybin can be found in nature. However, regulations restrict doctors from picking them for trial use. This essentially forces doctors to use synthetically grown mushrooms from outside companies, but no company has been able to provide the drug in a way that is suitable for trial use. These companies have to pass heavy regulations to obtain a valid license, which could take over a year and cost more than most are willing to pay.

Professor Nutt demands laws be reformed for possibly revolutionary research. At a Neuroscience conference, Nutt stated, “We live in a world of insanity in terms of regulating drugs…The whole field is so bogged down by these intransigent regulations, so that even if you have a good idea, you may never get it into the clinic.” Furthermore, only four hospitals in the UK have a license to possess the drug, making it impractical to use for treatment on a broad scale. Nutt claims that even if trials were proven successful, regulations will make it impossible for treatment use.

Previous experiments found psilocybin helped mitigate signs of depression in people who had failed to respond to other treatments. When volunteers are injected with it, the drug switches the anterior cingulate cortex, found in the front part of the brain and known to be overactive in depression.

Rita Baldini, Editor

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