Thursday, November 24 2022

Mental Health and Addictions Teaching Hospital and Research Center CAMH recently received Canada’s first federal grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion, goals for which it has become fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a collaborating center of the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization.

This time, researchers will focus on whether psilocybin’s psychedelic effects are a necessary step for the substance to have antidepressant action. in the context of mental health treatment. To do this, they will recruit 60 adults with treatment-resistant depression over three years.

A random third of participants will receive a full dose of psilocybin plus a brain serotonin 5-HT2A receptor blocker inhibiting the psychedelic effect of the drug, a second group will receive psilocybin plus placebo, and the final cohort will receive placebo plus the serotonin blocker. All participants will also receive 12 hours of psychotherapy in accordance with current practice in psychedelic research.

The results of the trial should serve as preliminary conclusions about the antidepressant effect of this drug combination.which would then lead to future research validating this potential approach for treating depression without resorting to intensive psychotherapy.

The head of CAMH’s Clinical Trials Unit and PI of the new study, Dr. Ishrat Husainfurther explained: “Previous clinical trials have reported significant and sustained antidepressant effects of psilocybin when combined with intensive psychotherapy. If this study shows that psilocybin is still effective in treating depression without inducing a psychedelic state, it could remove the time-consuming and expensive need for psychological support during treatment..”

All of this “would make treatment more accessible both to health care funders and to those seeking treatment,” Husain said.

Vice President of Research and Director of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH Dr Aristotle Voineskos added: “It’s crucial that moving forward we bring cutting-edge research technologies, like neuroimaging and molecular assessments, to better understand how compounds like psilocybin mediate their antidepressant or psychedelic effect, and the overall safety considerations (or benefits) related to brain health.”

Participants wishing to enroll should first contact their healthcare provider and then seek a referral to CAMH for further evaluation of trial eligibility details.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.


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