A psychedelic drug that causes half-hour travel has shown some success in treating depression, early trial results suggest.
Early evidence from a small trial suggests that a powerful pharmaceutical-grade hallucinogen — called intravenous DMT or SPL026 — can improve symptoms of moderate to severe depression when combined with treatment.
Fourteen of the 34 participants experienced remission within three months, and nine of them (64%) sustained it for six months, according to non-peer-reviewed data released by the biotech company Small Pharma.
Remission was defined as no or very mild depression.
Dr. Carol Routledge, Small Pharma’s chief medical and scientific officer, said scientists were “increasingly encouraged” by SPL026’s potential.
“After one week, a single dose together with the treatment showed a rapid and strong antidepressant effect,” she said.
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The first part of the study involved 34 patients who received the drug during a two-and-a-half-hour clinical session with a therapist. Supportive therapy followed to help participants cope with their travels.
This was compared to a group given a placebo.
The second part of the study followed participants for an additional three months after taking the drug, and then for another six months after the study ended to assess 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 hopes the trial will provide value to struggling healthcare systems that face the daily challenges of patients struggling to take their antidepressants.
Dr James Rucker, consultant and senior clinical lecturer in psychiatry at King’s College London, said early-stage trials often failed to show whether a treatment worked – but the results were “encouraging” and could “pave the way” for further trials.
However, he said “it was not possible to tell whether the participants improved for reasons unrelated to the medications and treatments provided.”