A powerful hallucinogenic drug known for its part in shamanic rituals is being trialled as a potential cure for depression for the first time. Participants will be given the drug DMT, followed by talking therapy. It is hoped this could offer an alternative for the significant number of people who don’t respond to conventional pills for depression. Psychedelic-assisted therapy might offer longer-term relief from symptoms, some researchers believe. A growing body of evidence indicates other psychedelic drugs, particularly alongside talking therapy, are safe and can be effective for treating a range of mental illnesses. This will be the first time DMT is given to people with moderate to severe depression in a clinical trial. Carol Routledge, the chief scientific officer of Small Pharma, the company running the trial said: “We believe the impact will be almost immediate, and longer lasting than conventional antidepressants.”
The drug is known as the “spirit molecule” because of the way it alters the human consciousness and produces hallucinations that have been likened to a near-death experience. It is also the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a traditional Amazonian plant medicine used to bring spiritual enlightenment.
Researchers believe the drug might help loosen the brain’s fixed pathways, which can then be “reset” with talking therapy afterwards.
Ms Routledge likened the drug to “shaking a snow globe” – throwing entrenched negative thought patterns up in the air which the therapy allows to be resettled into a more functional form.
But this hypothesis still needs to be proven. The team is consulting Imperial College London, which runs the pioneering Centre for Psychedelic Research. As part of the study, they hope to investigate whether the drug can be administered as a one-off or as part of a course. Subjects will be followed up for at least six months to see how long the effects of the treatment last.https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56373202