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Mushrooms / Psilocybin

Therapeutic effects of classic serotonergic psychedelics: A systematic review of modern-era clinical studies

Abstract

Objective: To conduct a systematic review of modern-era (post-millennium) clinical studies assessing the therapeutic effects of serotonergic psychedelics drugs for mental health conditions. Although the main focus was on efficacy and safety, study characteristics, duration of antidepressants effects across studies, and the role of the subjective drug experiences were also reviewed and presented.

Method: A systematic literature search (1 Jan 2000 to 1 May 2020) was conducted in PubMed and PsychINFO for studies of patients undergoing treatment with a serotonergic psychedelic.

Results: Data from 16 papers, representing 10 independent psychedelic-assisted therapy trials (psilocybin = 7, ayahuasca = 2, LSD = 1), were extracted, presented in figures and tables, and narratively synthesized and discussed. Across these studies, a total of 188 patients suffering either cancer- or illness-related anxiety and depression disorders (C/I-RADD), major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or substance use disorder (SUD) were included. The reviewed studies established feasibility and evidence of safety, alongside promising early data of efficacy in the treatment of depression, anxiety, OCD, and tobacco and alcohol use disorders. For a majority of patients, the therapeutic effects appeared to be long-lasting (weeks-months) after only 1 to 3 treatment session(s). All studies were conducted in line with guidelines for the safe conduct of psychedelic therapy, and no severe adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: The resurrection of clinical psychedelic research provides early evidence for treatment efficacy and safety for a range of psychiatric conditions, and constitutes an exciting new treatment avenue in a health area with major unmet needs.

Andersen, K., Carhart-Harris, R., Nutt, D. J., & Erritzoe, D. (2021). Therapeutic effects of classic serotonergic psychedelics: A systematic review of modern-era clinical studies. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, 143(2), 101–118. https://doi.org/10.1111/acps.13249

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Stability of psilocybin and its four analogs in the biomass of the psychotropic mushroom Psilocybe cubensis

Abstract

Psilocybin, psilocin, baeocystin, norbaeocystin, and aeruginascin are tryptamines structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Psilocybin and its pharmacologically active metabolite psilocin in particular are known for their psychoactive effects. These substances typically occur in most species of the genus Psilocybe (Fungi, Strophariaceae). Even the sclerotia of some of these fungi known as “magic truffles” are of growing interest in microdosing due to them improving cognitive function studies. In addition to microdosing studies, psilocybin has also been applied in clinical studies, but only its pure form has been administrated so far. Moreover, the determination of tryptamine alkaloids is used in forensic analysis. In this study, freshly cultivated fruit bodies of Psilocybe cubensis were used for monitoring stability (including storage and processing conditions of fruiting bodies). Furthermore, mycelium and the individual parts of the fruiting bodies (caps, stipes, and basidiospores) were also examined. The concentration of tryptamines in final extracts was analyzed using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. No tryptamines were detected in the basidiospores, and only psilocin was present at 0.47 wt.% in the mycelium. The stipes contained approximately half the amount of tryptamine alkaloids (0.52 wt.%) than the caps (1.03 wt.%); however, these results were not statistically significant, as the concentration of tryptamines in individual fruiting bodies is highly variable. The storage conditions showed that the highest degradation of tryptamines was seen in fresh mushrooms stored at -80°C, and the lowest decay was seen in dried biomass stored in the dark at room temperature.

Gotvaldová, K., Hájková, K., Borovička, J., Jurok, R., Cihlářová, P., & Kuchař, M. (2021). Stability of psilocybin and its four analogs in the biomass of the psychotropic mushroom Psilocybe cubensis. Drug testing and analysis, 13(2), 439–446. https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.2950

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Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice

Abstract

Hallucinogenic agents have been proposed as potent antidepressants; this includes the serotonin (5-HT) receptor 2A agonist psilocybin. In human subjects, psilocybin alters functional connectivity (FC) within the default-mode network (DMN), a constellation of inter-connected regions that displays altered FC in depressive disorders. In this study, we investigated the effects of psilocybin on FC across the entire brain with a view to investigate underlying mechanisms. Psilocybin effects were investigated in lightly-anaesthetized mice using resting-state fMRI. Dual-regression analysis identified reduced FC within the ventral striatum in psilocybin- relative to vehicle-treated mice. Refinement of the analysis using spatial references derived from both gene expression maps and viral tracer projection fields revealed two distinct effects of psilocybin: it increased FC between 5-HT-associated networks and cortical areas, including elements of the murine DMN, thalamus, and midbrain; it decreased FC within dopamine (DA)-associated striatal networks. These results suggest that interactions between 5-HT- and DA-regulated neural networks contribute to the neural and therefore psychological effects of psilocybin. Furthermore, they highlight how information on molecular expression patterns and structural connectivity can assist in the interpretation of pharmaco-fMRI findings.

Grandjean, J., Buehlmann, D., Buerge, M., Sigrist, H., Seifritz, E., Vollenweider, F. X., Pryce, C. R., & Rudin, M. (2021). Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice. NeuroImage, 225, 117456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117456

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Polypharmacology or “Pharmacological Promiscuity” In Psychedelic Research: What Are We Missing?

Abstract

Research with psychedelic drugs has mainly focused on isolated compounds. However, this approach is challenged by the “polypharmacology” paradigm. In this Viewpoint, we suggest that we may be missing something if we do not use the whole product in the case of ayahuasca or Psilocybe mushrooms. After describing how research on psychedelic drugs can be effectively combined with the polypharmacology paradigm, ethical issues are also briefly discussed.

Ona, G. S., Dos Santos, R. G., Hallak, J., & Bouso, J. C. (2020). Polypharmacology or “Pharmacological Promiscuity” In Psychedelic Research: What Are We Missing?. ACS chemical neuroscience, 11(20), 3191–3193. https://doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00614

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Potential safety, benefits, and influence of the placebo effect in microdosing psychedelic drugs: A systematic review

Abstract

Microdosing psychedelic drugs-that is, taking sub-behavioral doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin-is a growing practice in Western societies. Taken mainly for creative or mood-enhancing purposes, thousands of users are increasingly being exposed to (micro)doses of psychedelic drugs. In this systematic review, we searched the available evidence from human studies, focusing our results in terms of three main axes: efficacy, safety, and the influence of the placebo effect in microdosing practices. While the available evidence has some strengths (e.g. large sample sizes, robust methodologies) there are also remarkable limitations (e.g. gender bias, heterogeneity of dosing schedules and drugs used). Highly contradictory results have been found, showing both the benefits and detriments of microdosing in terms of mood, creative processes, and energy, among other regards. This review provides a general overview of the methods and approaches used, which could be useful for improving future studies.

Ona, G., & Bouso, J. C. (2020). Potential safety, benefits, and influence of the placebo effect in microdosing psychedelic drugs: A systematic review. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 119, 194–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.09.035

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The emerging role of psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of mental illness

Abstract

Introduction: Mental illness has a chronic course of illness with a number of clinical manifestations. Affected individuals experience significant functional, emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments. The growing prevalence of mental illness has been associated with significant social and economic costs. Indeed, the economic burden of mental illness is estimated to exceed $1.8 trillion USD over the next 30 years. A significant number of individuals affected by mental illness fail to respond to first-line treatment options. Therefore, there remains an unmet need for rapidly attenuating therapeutic options for mental health disorders with minimal social and economic burden.

Areas covered: The paucity of novel treatment options warrants a renewed investigation of psychedelic-based psychotherapy. Herein, the authors will evaluate the therapeutic potential of traditional psychedelics, psilocybin, and MDMA, in the treatment of mental illness with a narrative review of available literature.

Expert opinion: Psychedelics, such as psilocybin and MDMA, offer an alternative avenue of therapy for many mental health disorders. Available evidence indicates that psychedelics may offer a single-dose, rapid effect model that have robust effects with treatment-resistant mental disorders and a unique advantage as a possible monotherapy for mental illness. Novel clinical trials that evaluate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy in clinically representative populations are warranted.

Gill, H., Gill, B., Chen-Li, D., El-Halabi, S., Rodrigues, N. B., Cha, D. S., Lipsitz, O., Lee, Y., Rosenblat, J. D., Majeed, A., Mansur, R. B., Nasri, F., Ho, R., & McIntyre, R. S. (2020). The emerging role of psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of mental illness. Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 20(12), 1263–1273. https://doi.org/10.1080/14737175.2020.1826931

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Psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralized older long-term AIDS survivor men: An open-label safety and feasibility pilot study

Abstract

Background: Psilocybin therapy has shown promise as a rapid-acting treatment for depression, anxiety, and demoralization in patients with serious medical illness (e.g., cancer) when paired with individual psychotherapy. This study assessed the safety and feasibility of psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralization in older long-term AIDS survivor (OLTAS) men, a population with a high degree of demoralization and traumatic loss.

Methods: Self-identified gay men OLTAS with moderate-to-severe demoralization (Demoralization Scale-II ≥8) were recruited from the community of a major US city for a single-site open-label study of psilocybin-assisted group therapy comprising 8-10 group therapy visits and one psilocybin administration visit (0·3-0·36 mg/kg po). Primary outcomes were rate and severity of adverse events, and participant recruitment and retention. The primary clinical outcome was change in mean demoralization from baseline to end-of-treatment and to 3-month follow-up assessed with a two-way repeated measures ANOVA. Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02950467).

Findings: From 17 July 2017 to 16 January 2019, 18 participants (mean age 59·2 years (SD 4·4)) were enrolled, administered group therapy and psilocybin, and included in intent-to-treat analyses. We detected zero serious adverse reactions and two unexpected adverse reactions to psilocybin; seven participants experienced self-limited, severe expected adverse reactions. We detected a clinically meaningful change in demoralization from baseline to 3-month follow-up (mean difference -5·78 [SD 6·01], ηp 2 = 0·47, 90% CI 0·21-0·60).

Interpretation: We demonstrated the feasibility, relative safety, and potential efficacy of psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralization in OLTAS. Groups may be an effective and efficient means of delivering psychotherapy pre- and post-psilocybin to patients with complex medical and psychiatric needs.

Anderson, B. T., Danforth, A., Daroff, P. R., Stauffer, C., Ekman, E., Agin-Liebes, G., Trope, A., Boden, M. T., Dilley, P. J., Mitchell, J., & Woolley, J. (2020). Psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralized older long-term AIDS survivor men: An open-label safety and feasibility pilot study. EClinicalMedicine, 27, 100538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100538

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Compassionate use of psychedelics

Abstract

In the present paper, we discuss the ethics of compassionate psychedelic psychotherapy and argue that it can be morally permissible. When talking about psychedelics, we mean specifically two substances: psilocybin and MDMA. When administered under supportive conditions and in conjunction with psychotherapy, therapies assisted by these substances show promising results. However, given the publicly controversial nature of psychedelics, compassionate psychedelic psychotherapy calls for ethical justification. We thus review the safety and efficacy of psilocybin- and MDMA-assisted therapies and claim that it can be rational for some patients to try psychedelic therapy. We think it can be rational despite the uncertainty of outcomes associated with compassionate use as an unproven treatment regime, as the expected value of psychedelic psychotherapy can be assessed and can outweigh the expected value of routine care, palliative care, or no care at all. Furthermore, we respond to the objection that psychedelic psychotherapy is morally impermissible because it is epistemically harmful. We argue that given the current level of understanding of psychedelics, this objection is unsubstantiated for a number of reasons, but mainly because there is no experimental evidence to suggest that epistemic harm actually takes place.
Greif, A., & Šurkala, M. (2020). Compassionate use of psychedelics. Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy.,
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Efficacy of Psychoactive Drugs for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review of MDMA, Ketamine, LSD and Psilocybin

Abstract

The aim of this systematic review was to examine the efficacy of MDMA, ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A search of four databases for English language, peer-reviewed literature published from inception to 18th October 2019 yielded 2,959 records, 34 of which were screened on full-text. Observational studies and RCTs which tested the efficacy of MDMA, ketamine, LSD, or psilocybin for reducing PTSD symptoms in adults, and reported changes to PTSD diagnosis or symptomatology, were included. Nine trials (five ketamine and four MDMA) met inclusion criteria. Trials were rated on a quality and bias checklist and GRADE was used to rank the evidence. The evidence for ketamine as a stand-alone treatment for comorbid PTSD and depression was ranked “very low”, and the evidence for ketamine in combination with psychotherapy as a PTSD treatment was ranked “low”. The evidence for MDMA in combination with psychotherapy as a PTSD treatment was ranked “moderate”.

Varker, T., Watson, L., Gibson, K., Forbes, D., & O’Donnell, M. L. (2021). Efficacy of Psychoactive Drugs for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review of MDMA, Ketamine, LSD and Psilocybin. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 53(1), 85–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1817639

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Psilocybin as a New Approach to Treat Depression and Anxiety in the Context of Life-Threatening Diseases-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials

Abstract

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring tryptamine known for its psychedelic properties. Recent research indicates that psilocybin may constitute a valid approach to treat depression and anxiety associated to life-threatening diseases. The aim of this work was to perform a systematic review with meta-analysis of clinical trials to assess the therapeutic effects and safety of psilocybin on those medical conditions. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to measure the effects in depression and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was used to measure the effects in anxiety. For BDI, 11 effect sizes were considered (92 patients) and the intervention group was significantly favored (WMD = -4.589; 95% CI = -4.207 to -0.971; p-value = 0.002). For STAI-Trait, 11 effect sizes were considered (92 patients), being the intervention group significantly favored when compared to the control group (WMD = -5.906; 95% CI = -7.852 to -3.960; p-value ˂ 0.001). For STAI-State, 9 effect sizes were considered (41 patients) and the intervention group was significantly favored (WMD = -6.032; 95% CI = -8.900 to -3.164; p-value ˂ 0.001). The obtained results are promising and emphasize the importance of psilocybin translational research in the management of symptoms of depression and anxiety, since the compound may be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in conditions that are either resistant to conventional pharmacotherapy or for which pharmacologic treatment is not yet approved. Moreover, it may be also relevant for first-line treatment, given its safety.

Vargas, A. S., Luís, Â., Barroso, M., Gallardo, E., & Pereira, L. (2020). Psilocybin as a New Approach to Treat Depression and Anxiety in the Context of Life-Threatening Diseases-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Biomedicines, 8(9), 331. https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines8090331

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