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Psilocybin Therapy for Depression

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.

Reviewed by: Mark Hrymoc, MD




Major Depression


Major Depression (aka depression) and depressive-related disorders are among the most common mental health challenges plaguing Americans. Depression can result in grievous impairments that limit or interfere with various areas of one’s life such as work, school, tasks of daily living, and interpersonal relationships.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, for U.S. adults aged 18 or older in 2020:


  • An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.4% of all U.S. adults.

  • The prevalence of major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (10.5%) compared to males (6.2%).

  • The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (17.0%).

  • The prevalence of major depressive episodes was highest among those who report having multiple (two or more) races (15.9%) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022).


Common symptoms of major depression include:


  • Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness.

  • Lack of pleasure: in various activities, even those you love most.

  • Fluctuations in weight: eating more or less than usual.

  • Sleep changes: you may find yourself sleeping more or less than you normally would.

  • Slowing down: you may be observed by others to move and talk slower than usual.

  • Loss of energy: you may experience tiredness and lack of energy.

  • Guilt: this feeling may become excessive and may be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness.

  • Concentration changes: you may have trouble focusing or making decisions.

  • Thoughts of death: some people experience thoughts of suicide or related ideation.

If you have any of these thoughts and have an intent to act on them, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 for your own safety.


Treatment Options


The following are present treatment options for depression:

  • Medications: SSRI medications are often effective in depression treatment and are prescribed by psychiatrists.

  • Psychotherapy: “talk therapy” is a useful way to work through your experience with a mental health professional in a way that helps us learn coping skills for depression.

  • Ketamine Treatment: ketamine is a medication administered by a healthcare professional that is used for treatment-resistant depression.

  • Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP): a combination of psychotherapy and ketamine treatment caringly wrapped in the same appointment.


However, new and more effective treatment options are grasping the attention of researchers and medical professionals alike. One of these potential treatment options is psilocybin.


Research on Psilocybin and Depression


Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as “magic mushrooms,” are naturally occurring polyphyletic fungi that have hallucinogenic effects when ingested.


Studies on psilocybin show “potentially positive benefits with minimal safety concerns for…use in suicidality, anxiety disorders, OCD, alcohol use disorder, and tobacco use disorder with improvement in target symptoms” (Daniel & Haberman, 2018). A recent Johns Hopkins study found that psilocybin treatment led to a substantial decrease in depression symptoms, and the severity of the mental illness stayed low one, three, six and 12 months after treatment was completed (Gukasyan et al., 2022).


Another study conducted by scientists at UC San Francisco and Imperial College London provides scientific evidence that psilocybin fosters greater connections between different regions of the brain in people struggling with depression, liberating them from patterns of rumination and excessive self-focus (Daws et al., 2022).


It is important to note that the aforementioned research occurred under controlled clinical conditions, utilizing extensive psychological support throughout the study with a regulated dose formulated in a laboratory.


Ketamine Therapy Center


Ketamine Therapy Center is a treatment branch from the Mental Health Center that specializes in ketamine infusion therapy. We plan to offer even more types of psychedelic treatments such as psilocybin therapy when it FDA approved, as we believe in evidence-based treatment approaches that have the power to transform one’s life.


Our doctors offer Ketamine Therapy Evaluations to thoroughly assess patients for ketamine therapy candidacy; from here, they collaborate with patients to develop treatment plans. Our office in the Cedars- Sinai Medical Office towers houses rooms specially designed for patient comfort. Our highly experienced and talented nurses are well-versed in ketamine infusion therapy and help patients feel comfortable as they move through the treatment process. Our therapists are trained in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy and offer therapeutic guidance to enhance the psychological benefit of the treatment while simultaneously creating a grounded and safe space.


For more information, please do not hesitate to explore our website or contact our office!



References



Daniel, J., & Haberman, M. (2018). Clinical potential of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health conditions. Ment Health Clin. 2018 Mar 23;7(1):24-28. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2017.01.024. PMID: 29955494; PMCID: PMC6007659.

Daws, R., Timmermann, C., Giribaldi, B., et al., (2022), Increased global integration in the brain after psilocybin therapy for depression, Nature Medicine, Vol: 28, ISSN: 1078-8956

Gukasyan, N., Davis, A.K., Barrett, F.S., et al. (2022). Efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted treatment for major depressive disorder: Prospective 12-month follow-up. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2022;36(2):151-158. doi:10.1177/02698811211073759

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022). Major depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression

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