Will Psilocybin Clinics Be The Next Big Thing in Treating Depression?

Earlier this year we wrote about the movement to decriminalize psilocybin – noting its success in Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz – and that nearly 100 other cities are looking at decriminalizing psychedelics. (The Psilocybin Movement is Like the Cannabis Movement (Except When It’s Not)). That article posited that psilocybin would move along two tracks similar to cannabis (medical and pharmaceutical) before approaching the “retail model” initiatives that became standard with adult use cannabis.

We also have been tracking the use of ketamine to treat depression and litigation related thereto:

In the first article, we noted the proliferation of ketamine clinics and the larger trend of the health care provider community in exploring alternative therapies and emerging medicine, including the use of psilocybin.

A paper recently published by the National Academy of Scientists may prove groundbreaking in helping us understand why psilocybin is “showing considerable promise as a therapeutic intervention for neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, and addiction,” according to its authors. I’ll be the first to confess that the science described in the paper is beyond me, but this article by Georgia Perry does a good job. Ms. Perry writes that “an international team of scientists created a biophysically realistic whole-brain model . . . [which] enabled them to observe how psilocybin impacts the activity of neurons and neurotransmitters.”  The researchers found that psilocybin disrupted neural networks and neurotransmitters formed new pathways.

Although ketamine clinics may provide a roadmap for psilocybin clinics, a key difference is that psilocybin remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means psilocybin is defined as having a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical uses. (Marijuana is defined the same way and this did not stop legalization efforts.) Ketamine is a defined as Schedule III drug. So in the near term, the differing treatment between ketamine and psilocybin likely will prevent an explosion of clinics offering treatment.

That said, let’s hope scientific research into psilocybin as a treatment for depression continues and that research results are taken seriously by legislators and others who have the ability to change our laws and policies.

For more reading on psilocybin, check out the following: