We can no longer ignore the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat depression

Via The Guardian

At Imperial College we’ve been comparing psilocybin to conventional antidepressants – and the results are likely to be game-changing

The world is experiencing a devastating physical health emergency. But the coronavirus pandemic has also seen a renewed focus on our psychological wellbeing. Loneliness, uncertainty and grief may be intensifying an already acute mental health crisis, and in the US there has been a 20% spike in the number of prescriptions for antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs during lockdown. Demand for key antidepressants is threatening to exceed supply in the UK – where prescriptions have already more than doubled over the last decade.

I head the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, the first of its kind, supported by about £3m in philanthropic donations. For 15 years, my research has focused on how drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT and MDMA work in the brain, and how they may be useful in treating disorders such as depression. Like the present pandemic, a psychedelic drug experiences can be transformative – of the individual – and of society. Both illuminate the extent to which the condition of the world we inhabit is dependent on our own behaviours. And these, in turn, are a consequence of how we feel, think and perceive.

The Centre was founded in April 2019. A few months later, Johns Hopkins University in the US announced a supersized version, floated by $17m. If you have read Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind or seen the first episode of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix series, The Goop Lab (titled The Healing Trip), you may be aware that such developments reflect a rising interest, and investment, in the mental health application of psychedelic drugs.

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