Canadian Doctors Receive Grant to Study the Effects of Magic Mushrooms on Depression

TORONTO – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), located in downtown Toronto, has just received Canada’s first federal grant to study the effects of magic mushrooms on mental health. Researchers in other countries have found that psilocybin, the main chemical component in magic mushrooms, can have positive effects on treatment-resistant depression.

CAMH researchers will look into if magic mushrooms can be used to treat depression without patients experiencing psychedelic effects. 

Dr. Ishrat Husain is head of the CAMH Clinical Trials Unit and principal investigator of the new CAMH study.

Photo Courtesy of Stantec

“If this study shows that psilocybin is still effective at treating depression without inducing a psychedelic state, it could remove the time-intensive and costly need for psychological support during the treatment,” Husain said in a statement.

“This would make the treatment more accessible both for healthcare funders, and for those seeking treatment,” Husain continued. 

“We’re very grateful to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for affirming CAMH as a leader in psychedelic science research and funding this important study,” added Dr. Husain.

The trial, called “A proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial to show that the antidepressant effects of psilocybin do not require psychedelic effects,” will be conducted amongst 60 adults with “treatment-resistant depression”.

People who are interested in taking part in the study are required to first connect with their family doctor or healthcare provider. Then potential candidates will have to get a referral to CAMH in order to receive an assessment to see if they are eligible for the study. 

CAMH researchers have already led studies involving psilocybin and ketamine. 

“There has been a growing interest and body of knowledge regarding the use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental illness and addictions,” Hussain said. 

Other Research has Shown Positive Effects

Around the world, other research centres have been investigating the effects of magic mushrooms on depression, as well as other mental health conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD. 

Studies have so far found that in many instances the psychedelic effects of magic mushrooms are highly effective in treating mental health conditions that were resistant to other treatments. 

Research at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London in England found that psilocybin can be at least as effective as a leading antidepressant when used properly.

During the British study, 59 volunteers with moderate-to-severe depression were given either a high dose of psilocybin and a placebo drug,  or a very low dose of psilocybin and escitalopram, a popular antidepressant.

“These results comparing two doses of psilocybin therapy with 43 daily doses of one of the best performing SSRI antidepressants help contextualise psilocybin’s promise as a potential mental health treatment. Remission rates were twice as high in the psilocybin group than the escitalopram group,”  said Dr Robin Carhart-Harris in a release. Carhart-Harris designed and led the study and is Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London.

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