Would you swap your antidepressant for a mushroom?

  • 30% of people with depression don’t respond to treatment with antidepressants. It often takes a long time to respond to such drugs. This causes some people to stop taking them after a while.
  • Psilocybin — the ingredient in magic mushrooms that makes people hallucinate — has been shown to relieve depression in recent clinical trials.
  • These new findings hold the promise of future treatment for depression. Researchers caution, however, that psilocybin would need to be prescribed under particular circumstances that would not include self-medication.

Up to 30% of people with depression don’t respond to treatment with antidepressants. This may be down to differences in biology between patients and the fact that it often takes a long time to respond to the drugs – with some people giving up after a while. So there is an urgent need to expand the repertoire of drugs available to people with depression.

In recent years, attention has turned to psychedelics such as psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms”. Despite a number of clinical trials showing that psilocybin can rapidly treat depression, including for cancer-related anxiety and depression, little is known about how psilocybin actually works to relieve depression in the brain.