Magic Mushrooms Pass First Hurdle as Depression Treatment

Mushroom’s active ingredient Psilocybinin is drawing researchers’ attention as potential treatment for more than just depression.

Magic Mushrooms Pass First Hurdle as Depression Treatment
Magic mushrooms are displayed in a refrigerated case at Innerspace, a smart shop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (Photographer: Roger Cremers/Bloomberg News)

(Bloomberg) -- Another party drug is showing signs of going legit as magic mushrooms cleared the first hurdle of tests required to become a treatment for depression.

The active ingredient in the mushrooms, psilocybin, was found to be safe and well tolerated when given to healthy volunteers in a study by researchers at King’s College London. Unsurprisingly, the subjects got high.

The potential of recreational drugs like marijuana as treatment has caught the medical world’s attention. In September, the school of medicine at Johns Hopkins University started a research center to study psychedelic drugs and their effects on behavior and brain function.

Chief among them is psilocybin, whose potential is drawing researchers beyond depression. Scientists are seeking to enlist patients to test the chemical for ailments including addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and migraines.

Closely held Compass Pathways is working to bring to market a version of psilocybin it manufactured for depression that resists other treatments. Compass sponsored the trial, which according to organizers was the largest controlled study of the chemical to date.

The study compared the effect of two doses of psilocybin -- the high one more than twice as much as the lower -- with a placebo on 89 volunteers. The next step is a trial involving 216 patients with depression in Europe and North America.

“Changes in sensory perception and positive mood alteration” were among the most frequent reactions doctors noted in the trial, Compass said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marthe Fourcade in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at, John Lauerman

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