UK regulators give okay to use psychedelic drug to treat depression in first clinical trial

"We think this could be a treatment for a number of depressive disorders besides major depression, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and possibly some types of substance abuse."

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Dimethyltriptamine, a psychedelic drug, will soon be trial-led in the United Kingdom to treat depression. UK Regulators will begin the trial by giving the “spirit molecule” drug to healthy individuals and then follow it up with a second trial on patients suffering from depression.

The drug is known for inducing “powerful hallucinogenic trips” and it will be paired with psychotherapy, The Guardian reported.

“The psychedelic drug breaks up all of the ruminative thought processes in your brain—it literally undoes what has been done by either the stress you’ve been through or the depressive thoughts you have—and hugely increases the making of new connections,” Carol Routledge, chief scientific and medical officer at Small Pharma, the company running the trial in collaboration with Imperial College London, said. “Then the [psychotherapy] session afterwards is the letting-things-settle piece of things—it helps you to make sense of those thoughts and puts you back on the right track,” she said.

The trial was approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and now needs permission from the Home Office, since dimethyltriptamine (DMT) is a controlled substance, before it can begin.

DMT, which can be found in “several plants and is one of the active ingredients in ayahuasca, a bitter drink consumed during shamanistic rituals in South America and elsewhere,” is also a street drug in the UK listed as Class A, The Guardian reported. If caught in possession of it, it carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail or if supplying DMT, it carries a life sentence.

The trial aims to provide the “lowest dose of DMT that elicits a psychedelic experience,” and mirror studies done on psilocybin—the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms—and depression, The Guardian reported.

“We think this could be a treatment for a number of depressive disorders besides major depression, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and possibly some types of substance abuse,” Routledge said.

Small Pharma is pushing for the first trial to start as soon as January beginning with 32 healthy volunteers, those of which have never taken a psychedelic drug, and then to follow, 36 patients suffering from clinical depression.

“We expect DMT to be rapid-acting, equivalent or perhaps even better than psilocybin, so within hours of a session you will get rapid relief [from your depression],” Routledge said. “We also expect the effect to be sustained over a similar time period.”

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