A psychedelic drug which causes half-an-hour trips has shown some success in treating depression, early trial results suggest.
Early evidence from a small trial suggests the powerful pharmaceutical-grade hallucinogenic – known as intravenous DMT, or SPL026 – could improve symptoms of moderate to severe depression when used in conjunction with therapy.
According to un-peer reviewed data released by biotechnology company Small Pharma, 14 participants out of 34 were in remission within three months – nine of whom (64%) sustained this up to six months.
Remission is defined as having no or very mild depression.
Dr Carol Routledge, chief medical and scientific officer at Small Pharma, said scientists were “increasingly encouraged” by SPL026’s potential.
“A single dose in conjunction with therapy demonstrated a rapid and robust antidepressant effect after one week,” she said.
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The first part of the study involved 34 patients being given the drug during a two-and-a-half-hour clinical session with a therapist. A supportive therapy session followed which helped participants process their trip.
This was compared with a group who were given a placebo drug.
The second part of the study followed participants for a further three months after being administered the drug, and then a further six months after the study had come to an end in an assessment of the drug’s durability.
A total of 25 participants from both treatment groups completed the six-month patient follow-up.
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Small Pharma hoped the trial could offer value to struggling healthcare systems that face challenges with patients who struggle to take antidepressants on a daily basis.
Dr James Rucker, consultant psychiatrist and senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London, said trials at this early stage generally cannot show whether a treatment is effective – but the results were “encouraging” and could “pave the way” for further trials.
Still, he said it was “not possible to gauge whether participants may have improved for reasons unrelated to the drug and therapy provided”.