TORONTO, July 27, 2022 – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has just been awarded Canada’s first federal grant to study psilocybin—the chemical component of “magic mushrooms”—with regard to its effect on treatment-resistant depression. More specifically, researchers will explore whether experiencing psilocybin’s psychedelic effects are required for it to have antidepressant effects.
“There has been a growing interest and body of knowledge regarding the use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental illness and addictions,” said Dr. Ishrat Husain, Head of the CAMH Clinical Trials Unit and principal investigator of the new CAMH study. “Previous clinical trials have reported large and sustained antidepressant effects of psilocybin when combined with intensive psychotherapy. 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. This would make the treatment more accessible both for healthcare funders, and for those seeking treatment.”
This new clinical trial, entitled “A proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial to show that the antidepressant effects of psilocybin do not require psychedelic effects,” will recruit 60 adults with treatment-resistant depression over three years. Over the course of the study, a random third of the participants will be administered a full dose of psilocybin plus a blocker for the 5-HT2A serotonin brain receptor, inhibiting the drug’s psychedelic effect. Another group will be given psilocybin plus a placebo. The final group will receive a placebo plus the serotonin blocker. All participants will also receive 12 hours of psychotherapy as per current practice in psychedelic research. Clinical trial results will serve as preliminary findings on the antidepressant effect of this drug combination, which will lead to future research to validate this potential approach for treatment of depression without the use of intensive psychotherapy.
CAMH researchers have already led studies involving psilocybin and ketamine. Recently, CAMH was the only Canadian site for the world’s largest clinical trial of psilocybin in mental health to date. This study was instrumental in providing further support for psilocybin as an emerging treatment for depression.
“As Canada’s largest mental health research hospital CAMH is ideally positioned to be at the forefront of psychedelic science research that focuses on safety, efficacy, and accessibility,” said Dr. Aristotle Voineskos, Vice President of Research and Director of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH. “Moreover, it is crucial that moving forward we bring to bear state-of-the-art research technologies, like neuroimaging and molecular assessments to get a better understanding of how compounds like psilocybin induce their antidepressant effect or psychedelic effect, and overall safety (or benefit) considerations related to brain health.”
Anyone interested in participating in this particular clinical study should first connect with their healthcare provider, then seek a referral to CAMH for further assessment of eligibility to participate in this trial. Visit Research Connect to learn more about participating in research at CAMH.
“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. “This is an exciting and growing field of research with the potential to help many people.”
About the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit camh.ca or follow @CAMHnews on Twitter.
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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)