Aside from the profound immediate health challenges of the global pandemic, many countries in recent years have had huge increases in numbers of people presenting with depression and other mental illnesses. In the UK, prescriptions for antidepressants has more than doubled in the past decade.
This huge demand has meant opportunities for research into all sorts of possible treatments for mental illnesses and for Robin Carhart-Harris that has meant groundbreaking investigations into the possible therapeutic uses of psychedelics and other controlled substances. The mind-altering properties of drugs such as ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms are well known, but their usefulness to medicine has until now not been the subject of rigorous medical trials. The early results are encouraging. Robin tells Rachel Humphreys how he has been leading work showing how psilocybin ( or magic mushrooms) can be used to assist psychotherapy for difficult-to-treat depression, making a significant difference where conventional antidepressants and talking therapy have not.
In the US, Oregon became the first state to legalise psilocybin for medical use last November. Dr Rachel Yehuda is director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research, at Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York. She has been researching PTSD since the late 80s, and recently got FDA approval to run stage 3 trials using MDMA as a treatment. She tells Rachel that if the results of the her trials continue to go well, we could see treatments hitting the market in the coming years.
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