from the available-on-prescription? dept.
I may start growing 'shrooms in my dark and dank pantry and get off Celexa after reading this New York Times article about what may be the medicinal qualities of magic mushrooms:
A study published last month in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface compared M.R.I.s of the brains of subjects injected with psilocybin [the psychoactive agent in magic mushrooms] with scans of their normal brain activity. The brains on psilocybin showed radically different connectivity patterns between cortical regions (the parts thought to play an important role in consciousness). The researchers mapped out these connections, revealing the activity of new neural networks between otherwise disconnected brain regions.
The researchers suspect that these unusual connections may be responsible for the synaesthetic experience trippers describe, of hearing colors, for example, and seeing sounds. The part of the brain that processes sound may be connecting to the part of the brain that processes sight. The study’s leader [said that] his team doubted that this psilocybin-induced connectivity lasted. They think they are seeing a temporary modification of the subject’s brain function.
The fact that under the influence of psilocybin the brain temporarily behaves in a new way may be medically significant in treating psychological disorders like depression. “When suffering depression, people get stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts and cannot get out of it,” [the study's leader] said. “One can imagine that breaking any pattern that prevents a ‘proper’ functioning of the brain can be helpful.” Think of it as tripping a breaker or rebooting your computer.
Of the 16 million American adults who live with depression, as many as one-quarter gain little or no benefit from available treatments, whether drugs or talk therapy. They represent perhaps the greatest unmet need in psychiatry. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription treatment intended to help them, a fast-acting drug derived from an old and widely used anesthetic, ketamine.
The move heralds a shift from the Prozac era of antidepressant drugs. The newly approved treatment, called esketamine, is a nasal spray developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a branch of Johnson & Johnson, that will be marketed under the name Spravato. It contains an active portion of the ketamine molecule, whose antidepressant properties are not well understood yet. "Thank goodness we now have something with a different mechanism of action than previous antidepressants," said Dr. Erick Turner, a former F.D.A. reviewer and an associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University. "But I'm skeptical of the hype, because in this world it's like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown: Each time we get our hopes up, the football gets pulled away."
[...] Esketamine, like ketamine, has the potential for abuse, and both drugs can induce psychotic episodes in people who are at high risk for them. The safety monitoring will require doctors to find space for treated patients, which could present a logistical challenge, some psychiatrists said.
The wholesale cost for a course of treatment will be between $2,360 and $3,540, said Janssen, and experts said it will give the company a foothold in the $12 billion global antidepressant market, where most drugs now are generic.
[...] One question that will need to be answered is how well esketamine performs in comparison to intravenous ketamine.
Psychiatrists Investigate Using Mushrooms to Treat Depression
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Study Suggests Psilocybin "Resets" the Brains of Depressed People
FDA Designates MDMA as a "Breakthrough Therapy" for PTSD; Approves Phase 3 Trials
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