Cure for depression? Banned 60 years ago, psychedelics could now have a new role to play in medicine

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October 04, 2021 7:33 PM

The active ingredient had been isolated over half a century ago due to its mind-altering effect.

The study being conducted in Mannheim is looking at 144 patients. (Representational image)

Psychedelics: Psychedelics have been banned for about 60 years in most of the countries across the world. But now, they might have a different role to play in the world of medicine, as a research project being run by Germany’s Central Institute of Mental Health is looking to test the effect of psychedelic experience on people suffering from depression. The first set of patients for the research project were taken in on July 13, and they wore blindfolds with headphones as two therapists accompanied them while they were given a hallucinogen called psilocybin. According to a report in IE, the active ingredient had been isolated over half a century ago due to its mind-altering effect.

In fact, even the researchers of the institute in Mannheim city found it difficult to procure the substance. The report cited Gerhard Grunder, researcher and psychiatry professor, as saying that there were not many manufacturers across the globe from whom a substance like this could be procured in the required quantity and therefore, it had been a long as well as a laborious process.

However, now, the process to acquire such substances is becoming more common since hallucinogenic trips caused by such substances are not limited to being pastimes for some group of people anymore. More and more studies have suggested that psilocybin-assisted therapy could potentially be helpful in treating patients suffering from depression, including those who have exhausted other forms of therapies.

The study being conducted in Mannheim is looking at 144 patients, and as per Grunder, it could lead to statistically robust conclusions in this regard.

The study is important as around 300 million people across the world are estimated by the WHO to be suffering from depression, with Germany having an estimated 5 million such people. It has also been estimated that conventional methods fail to treat as many as 20% of the people, which means that there is a big need to find alternative methods of treatment. Conventional treatments look at giving patients daily doses of antidepressants, and therefore, the new method that is being tested is drastically different, because it is looking at administering the substance once or twice, as per Grunder. He added that the therapy, if proven to be effective, would be a disruptive one and would become embedded in a psychotherapeutic programme.

It is notable here that earlier studies reported subjects as saying that they had life-changing experiences and experienced a significant improvement in their mental status, which even led to some patients not requiring antidepressants anymore.

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