OPEN Foundation


Post-Marketing Safety Concerns with Esketamine: A Disproportionality Analysis of Spontaneous Reports Submitted to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System


Introduction: Esketamine nasal spray received approval for treatment-resistant depression in March 2019.

Objective: Using the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database (March 2019-March 2020), we analysed esketamine-related adverse events (AEs) to detect and characterize relevant safety signals.

Methods: We used the consolidated case/non-case approach to estimate the reporting odds ratio (ROR) and information component (IC) with relevant confidence intervals (95% CI) for esketamine-related AEs with ≥4 counts. Comparisons between serious and non-serious AEs were performed using non-parametric tests.

Results: The FAERS database contained 962 cases of esketamine-related AEs, with signals detected for several AEs, such as dissociation (ROR = 1,612.64, 95% CI = 1,354.63, 1,919.79; IC = 8.19, 95% CI = 7.96, 8.35), sedation (ROR = 238.46, 95% CI = 202.98, 280.15; IC = 7, 95% CI = 6.75, 7.18), feeling drunk (ROR = 96.17, 95% CI = 61.42, 150.57; IC = 4.84, 95% CI = 4.09, 5.36), suicidal ideation (ROR = 24.03, 95% CI = 18.72, 30.84; IC = 4.31, 95% CI = 3.9, 4.61), and completed suicide (ROR = 5.75, 95% CI = 3.18, 10.41; IC = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.23, 2.94). Signals for suicidal and self-injurious ideation, but not suicide attempt and completed suicide, remained when comparing esketamine to venlafaxine. Females and patients receiving antidepressant polypharmacy, co-medication with mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, or somatic medications were more likely to suffer from serious versus non-serious AEs (χ2 = 125.29, p < 0.001, χ2 = 9.08, p = 0.003, χ2 = 8.14, p = 0.004, χ2 = 19.48, p < 0.001, χ2 = 25.62, p < 0.001, and χ2 = 16.79, p < 0.001, respectively).

Conclusions: Esketamine may carry a clear potential for serious AEs, which deserves urgent clarification by means of further prospective studies.

Gastaldon, C., Raschi, E., Kane, J. M., Barbui, C., & Schoretsanitis, G. (2021). Post-marketing safety concerns with esketamine: a disproportionality analysis of spontaneous reports submitted to the FDA adverse event reporting system. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics90(1), 41-48; 10.1159/000510703
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Phytochemical, Cytotoxicity, Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Psilocybe Natalensis Magic Mushroom


Psilocybin-containing mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms, have been used since ancient and recent times for depression and to improve quality of life. However, their anti-inflammatory properties are not known. The study aims at investing cytotoxicity; antioxidant; and, for the first time, anti-inflammatory effects of Psilocybe natalensis, a psilocybin-containing mushroom that grows in South Africa, on lipopolysaccharide-induced RAW 264.7 macrophages. Macrophage cells were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide and treated with different concentrations of Psilocybe natalensis mushroom extracted with boiling hot water, cold water and ethanol over 24 h. Quercetin and N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester were used as positive controls. Effects of extracts on the lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, and cytokine activities were investigated. Phytochemical analysis, and the antioxidant and cytotoxicity of extracts, were determined. Results showed that the three extracts inhibited the lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, and interleukin 1β cytokine production significantly in a dose-dependent manner close to that of the positive controls. A study proposed that ethanol and water extracts of Psilocybe natalensis mushroom were safe at concentrations used, and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Phytochemical analysis confirmed the presence of natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in the mushroom extracts.

Nkadimeng, S. M., Nabatanzi, A., Steinmann, C. M., & Eloff, J. N. (2020). Phytochemical, Cytotoxicity, Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Psilocybe Natalensis Magic Mushroom. Plants9(9), 1127;

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Plasma psilocin critically determines behavioral and neurobiological effects of psilocybin

Madsen, M. K., & Knudsen, G. M. (2021). Plasma psilocin critically determines behavioral and neurobiological effects of psilocybin. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology46(1), 257-258; 10.1038/s41386-020-00823-4
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A low dose of lysergic acid diethylamide decreases pain perception in healthy volunteers


Background: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is an ergot alkaloid derivative with psychedelic properties that has been implicated in the management of persistent pain. Clinical studies in the 1960s and 1970s have demonstrated profound analgesic effects of full doses of LSD in terminally ill patients, but this line of research evaporated after LSD was scheduled worldwide.

Aim: The present clinical study is the first to revisit the potential of LSD as an analgesic, and at dose levels which are not expected to produce profound mind-altering effects.

Methods: Twenty-four healthy volunteers received single doses of 5, 10 and 20 µg LSD as well as placebo on separate occasions. A Cold Pressor Test was administered at 1.5 and 5 h after treatment administration to assess pain tolerance to experimentally evoked pain. Ratings of dissociation and psychiatric symptoms as well as assessments of vital signs were included to monitor mental status as well as safety during treatments.

Results: LSD 20 µg significantly increased the time that participants were able to tolerate exposure to cold (3°C) water and decreased their subjective levels of experienced pain and unpleasantness. LSD elevated mean blood pressure within the normal range and slightly increased ratings of dissociation, anxiety and somatization.

Conclusion: The present study provides evidence of a protracted analgesic effect of LSD at a dose that is low enough to avoid a psychedelic experience. The present data warrant further research into the analgesic effects of low doses of LSD in patient populations.

Ramaekers, J. G., Hutten, N., Mason, N. L., Dolder, P., Theunissen, E. L., Holze, F., … & Kuypers, K. P. (2020). A low dose of lysergic acid diethylamide decreases pain perception in healthy volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881120940937; 10.1177/0269881120940937
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P300-mediated modulations in self-other processing under psychedelic psilocybin are related to connectedness and changed meaning: A window into the self-other overlap


The concept of self and self-referential processing has a growing explanatory value in psychiatry and neuroscience, referring to the cognitive organization and perceptual differentiation of self-stimuli in health and disease. Conditions in which selfhood loses its natural coherence offer a unique opportunity for elucidating the mechanisms underlying self-disturbances. We assessed the psychoactive effects of psilocybin (230 μg/kg p.o.), a preferential 5-HT1A/2A agonist known to induce shifts in self-perception. Our placebo-controlled, double-blind, within-subject crossover experiment (n = 17) implemented a verbal self-monitoring task involving vocalizations and participant identification of real-time auditory source- (self/other) and pitch-modulating feedback. Subjective experience and task performance were analyzed, with time-point-by-time-point assumption-free multivariate randomization statistics applied to the spatiotemporal dynamics of event-related potentials. Psilocybin-modulated self-experience, interacted with source to affect task accuracy, and altered the late phase of self-stimuli encoding by abolishing the distinctiveness of self- and other-related electric field configurations during the P300 timeframe. This last effect was driven by current source density changes within the supragenual anterior cingulate and right insular cortex. The extent of the P300 effect was associated with the intensity of psilocybin-induced feelings of unity and changed meaning of percepts. Modulations of late encoding and their underlying neural generators in self-referential processing networks via 5-HT signaling may be key for understanding self-disorders. This mechanism may reflect a neural instantiation of altered self-other and relational meaning processing in a stimulus-locked time domain. The study elucidates the neuropharmacological foundation of subjectivity, with implications for therapy, underscoring the concept of connectedness.

Smigielski, L., Kometer, M., Scheidegger, M., Stress, C., Preller, K. H., Koenig, T., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2020). P300‐mediated modulations in self–other processing under psychedelic psilocybin are related to connectedness and changed meaning: A window into the self–other overlap. Human brain mapping41(17), 4982-4996; 10.1002/hbm.25174

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Psychedelic science in post-COVID-19 psychiatry


The medium- to long-term consequences of COVID-19 are not yet known, though an increase in mental health problems are predicted. Multidisciplinary strategies across socio-economic and psychological levels may be needed to mitigate the mental health burden of COVID-19. Preliminary evidence from the rapidly progressing field of psychedelic science shows that psilocybin therapy offers a promising transdiagnostic treatment strategy for a range of disorders with restricted and maladaptive habitual patterns of cognition and behaviour, notably depression, addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder. The COMPASS Pathways (COMPASS) phase 2b double-blind trial of psilocybin therapy in antidepressant-free, treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is underway to determine the safety, efficacy and optimal dose of psilocybin. Results from the Imperial College London Psilodep-RCT comparing the efficacy and mechanisms of action of psilocybin therapy to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram will soon be published. However, the efficacy and safety of psilocybin therapy in conjunction with SSRIs in TRD is not yet known. An additional COMPASS study, with a centre in Dublin, will begin to address this question, with potential implications for the future delivery of psilocybin therapy. While at a relatively early stage of clinical development, and notwithstanding the immense challenges of COVID-19, psilocybin therapy has the potential to play an important therapeutic role for various psychiatric disorders in post-COVID-19 clinical psychiatry.

Kelly, J. R., Crockett, M. T., Alexander, L., Haran, M., Baker, A., Burke, L., … & O’Keane, V. (2020). Psychedelic science in post-COVID-19 psychiatry. Irish journal of psychological medicine, 1-6; 10.1017/ipm.2020.94

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Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans are at increased risk for a variety of mental health problems and cognitive impairment associated with military service. Current treatments are lacking in effectiveness and adherence. Therefore, this study examined psychedelic treatment with ibogaine and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine for trauma-related psychological and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

We conducted a survey of Veterans who completed a specific psychedelic clinical program in Mexico between 2017 and 2019. Questions probed retrospective reports of mental health and cognitive functioning during the 30 days before and 30 days after treatment. A total of 65 people completed treatment during this time frame and were eligible for contact. Of these, 51 (78%) completed the survey and were included in data analyses (mean age = 40; male = 96%; married = 55%; Caucasian/White = 92%; Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Service = 96%).

Results indicated significant and very large reductions in retrospective report of suicidal ideation (p < .001; d = −1.9), cognitive impairment (p < .001; d = −2.8), and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (p < .001; d = −3.6), depression (p < .001; d = −3.7), and anxiety (p < .001; d = −3.1). Results also showed a significant and large increase in retrospective report of psychological flexibility (p < .001; d = 2.9) from before-to-after the psychedelic treatment. Increases in the retrospective report of psychological flexibility were strongly associated with retrospective report of reductions in cognitive impairment, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (rs range −0.61 to −0.75; p < .001). Additionally, most participants rated the psychedelic experiences as one of the top five personally meaningful (84%), spiritually significant (88%), and psychologically insightful (86%) experiences of their lives.
Limitations: Several limitations should be considered including the retrospective, self-report, survey design of the study, and the lack of randomization and blinding, thus making these finding preliminary.

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans may have unique treatment needs because of the sequela of problems associated with repeated trauma exposure and the nature of the exposure. Psychedelic-assisted therapy with these under-researched psychedelics may hold unique promise for this population. However, controlled studies are needed to determine whether this treatment is efficacious in relieving mental health and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

Davis, A. K., Averill, L. A., Sepeda, N. D., Barsuglia, J. P., & Amoroso, T. (2020). Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans. Chronic Stress4, 2470547020939564; 10.1177/2470547020939564
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Historic psychedelic drug trials and the treatment of anxiety disorders


Introduction: In this paper, we systematically review literature from 1940 to 2000 relating to the combined use of psychological therapies and psychedelic drugs in the treatment of ICD-10 anxiety disorders.

Methods: The databases Ovid MEDLINE(R), PsycINFO, and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) were searched for case reports and trials involving humans in the treatment of ICD-10 anxiety and related disorders. Twenty-four studies are described; four describe anxiety symptoms in diverse patient groups, 14 studies describe historic diagnoses that usefully correspond with ICD-10 anxiety disorders, six studies pooled results or failed to detail results specific to contemporary ICD-10 anxiety disorders. Two of the 24 studies reported are individual case reports while two of them were inadequate in terms of the reporting of outcome measures. Thus 20 studies were ultimately included in the summary analysis.

Results: Three of the 20 studies reviewed described improvements in anxiety by standardized measures (p < .05) and two studies found that this effect was dose related. Of the 20 studies included in the final analysis, 94 of 145 (65%) cases of “psychoneurotic anxiety reaction” as defined by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-I showed improvement that ranged from moderate improvement to full recovery. Despite methodological inadequacies, the results from previous studies are encouraging and should be used to guide and inform further investigation.

Conclusion: The majority of studies indicate that a combination of psychedelic drug administration and psychological therapy was most beneficial. We found no study suggesting that the pharmacological action of psychedelic drugs in isolation is sufficient.

Weston, N. M., Gibbs, D., Bird, C. I., Daniel, A., Jelen, L. A., Knight, G., … & Rucker, J. J. (2020). Historic psychedelic drug trials and the treatment of anxiety disorders. Depression and Anxiety37(12), 1261-1279; 10.1002/da.23065
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3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for victims of sexual abuse with severe post-traumatic stress disorder: an open label pilot study in Brazil


Objective: To conduct Brazil’s first clinical trial employing 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), given its high prevalence resulting from epidemic violence.

Methods: Of 60 volunteers, four matched the inclusion & exclusion criteria. Three patients with PTSD secondary to sexual abuse (diagnosed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSMV-4 [CAPS 4]) completed enrollment and treatment, following a standardized Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies protocol consisting of 15 weekly therapy sessions: three with orally administered MDMA with concurrent psychotherapy and music, spaced approximately 1 month apart. CAPS-4 scores two months after the final MDMA session were the primary outcome.

Results: No serious adverse events occurred. The most frequent adverse events were somatic pains and anguish. CAPS-4 reductions were always greater than 25 points. The final scores were 61, 27, and 8, down from baseline scores of 90, 78, and 72, respectively. All reductions were greater than 30%, which is indicative of clinically significant improvement. Secondary outcomes included lower Beck Depressive Inventory scores and higher Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory and Global Assessment of Functioning scores.

Conclusions: Considering the current limitations in safe and efficacious treatments for PTSD and recent studies abroad with larger patient samples, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could become a viable treatment in Brazil.

Jardim, A. V., Jardim, D. V., Chaves, B. R., Steglich, M., Ot’alora G, M., Mithoefer, M. C., … & Doblin, R. (2020). 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for victims of sexual abuse with severe post-traumatic stress disorder: an open label pilot study in Brazil. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, (AHEAD); 10.1590/1516-4446-2020-0980
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Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences


Objective: Research into psychedelic therapy models has shown promise for the treatment of specific psychiatric conditions. Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin have been correlated with therapeutic benefits and long-term improvements in positive mental outlook and attitudes. This article aims to provide an overview of the topic, highlight strengths and weaknesses in current research, generate novel perspectives and discussion, and consider future avenues for research.

Design: This narrative review was designed to summarise and assess the state of research on psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences and applications for the treatment of specific psychiatric conditions.

Results: Contemporary methods on the quantification of mystical-type experiences and their acute subjective effects are discussed. Recent studies provide some understanding of the pharmacological actions of psychedelics although the neurological similarities and differences between spontaneous and psychedelic mystical-type experiences are not well described. Applicability to modern clinical settings is assessed. Potential novel therapeutic applications include use in positive psychology interventions in healthy individuals.

Conclusions: Since 2006 significant advancements in understanding the therapeutic potential of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy have been made; however, more work is required to understand the neuromechanistic processes and applicability in modern clinical settings. Despite promising results in recent studies, funding issues for clinical trials, legal concerns and socio-cultural resistance provide a counterpoint to experimental evidence.

James, E., Robertshaw, T. L., Hoskins, M., & Sessa, B. (2020). Psilocybin occasioned mystical‐type experiences. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental35(5), e2742; 10.1002/hup.2742
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