An interesting clinical trial that was looking into the use of magic mushrooms as a possible treatment for depression has been halted due to current regulations regarding the use of illegal drugs in research.
The study’s lead researcher, professor David Nutt, once fired in 2009 from a position as the British government’s chief drug advisor, believes this regulation is “archaic” and blocks scientific progress. Nutt and his team at Imperial College London believe that they have found proof that the hallucinogen psilocybin might be able to combat the effects of severe depression in cases where the patient was resistant to previous treatments. However, psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms” and has been banned in the UK as a Class A drug.
Despite the fact that the Medical Research Council was given a £550,000 grant to conduct the trial, Nutt has explained that they cannot continue. When he was talking about the subject at the British Neuroscience Association’s Festival of Neuroscience in London, he said: “We’re not allowed to go and pick the mushrooms anymore and finding a company to provide this illegal drug in a way that can be prepared for trial use as yet has proved impossible. We are between a rock and a hard place, and that’s very unfortunate because if this is an effective treatment, as it may well be for some people, then they are obviously being denied that possibility.”
With current UK laws being what they are, academic researchers cannot make their own Class A drugs and they also have to get them from an outside resource because companies that could supply the drugs have to go through “regulatory hoops” to get the right license to do so. Nutt estimates it would take as long as a year to clear these regulatory hurdles and could make the trial cost three times as much. He goes on to say that the new regulations on drugs is getting insane.
Current drug treatments being used to treat depression could use some help. For example, antidepressant medications like Paxil are known to cause serious adverse side effects like violent and suicidal thoughts. Paxil is also known to cause birth defects (PPHN, oral clefts and heart, lung and brain defects). So many side effects are caused by drugs like Paxil that researchers like Nutt and his team are always on the lookout for newer ways to treat the condition. For now, at least, it looks like the magic mushroom route may not be the next big thing in depression medications.