Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment resistant depression : six-month follow-up
R. L. Carhart-Harris, M. Bolstridge, C. M. J. Day, J. Rucker, R. Watts, D. E. Erritzoe, M. Kaelen, B. Giribaldi, M. Bloomfield, S. Pilling, J. A. Rickard, B. Forbes, A. Feilding, D. Taylor, H. V. Curran, D. J. Nutt
Rationale : Recent clinical trials are reporting marked improvements in mental health outcomes with psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy.
Objectives : Here, we report on safety and efficacy outcomes for up to 6 months in an open-label trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.
Methods : Twenty patients (six females) with (mostly) severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. Depressive symptoms were assessed from 1 week to 6 months post-treatment, with the self-rated QIDS SR16 as the primary outcome measure.
Results : Treatmentwas generallywell tolerated. Relative to baseline, marked reductions in depressive symptoms were observed for the first 5 weeks post-treatment (Cohen’s d = 2.2 at week 1 and 2.3 at week 5, both p < 0.001); nine and four patientsmet the criteria for response and remission at week 5. Results remained positive at 3 and 6 months (Cohen’s d = 1.5 and 1.4, respectively, both p < 0.001). No patients sought conventional antidepressant treatment within 5 weeks of psilocybin. Reductions in depressive symptoms at 5 weeks were predicted by the quality of the acute psychedelic experience.
Conclusions : Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessions and remained significant 6 months post-treatment in a treatment resistant cohort. Psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression that warrants further research in double-blind randomised control trials.