Exploring the Potential Utility of Psychedelic Therapy for Patients With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Single-Dose Psilocybin Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
IMPORTANCE:Psilocybin shows promise as a treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). OBJECTIVE:To evaluate the magnitude, timing, and durability of antidepressant effects and safety of a single dose of psilocybin in patients with MDD. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:In this phase 2 trial conducted between December 2019 and June 2022 at 11 research sites in the US, participants were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to receive a single dose of psilocybin vs niacin placebo administered with psychological support. Participants were adults aged 21 to 65 years with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition diagnosis of MDD of at least 60 days' duration and moderate or greater symptom severity. Exclusion criteria included history of psychosis or mania, active substance use disorder, and active suicidal ideation with intent. Participants taking psychotropic agents who otherwise met inclusion/exclusion criteria were eligible following medication taper. Primary and secondary outcomes and adverse events (AEs) were assessed at baseline (conducted within 7 days before dosing) and at 2, 8, 15, 29, and 43 days after dosing. INTERVENTIONS:Interventions were a 25-mg dose of synthetic psilocybin or a 100-mg dose of niacin in identical-appearing capsules, each administered with psychological support. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:The primary outcome was change in central rater-assessed Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score (range, 0-60; higher scores indicate more severe depression) from baseline to day 43. The key secondary outcome measure was change in MADRS score from baseline to day 8. Other secondary outcomes were change in Sheehan Disability Scale score from baseline to day 43 and MADRS-defined sustained response and remission. Participants, study site personnel, study sponsor, outcome assessors (raters), and statisticians were blinded to treatment assignment. RESULTS:A total of 104 participants (mean [SD] age, 41.1 [11.3] years; 52 [50%] women) were randomized (51 to the psilocybin group and 53 to the niacin group). Psilocybin treatment was associated with significantly reduced MADRS scores compared with niacin from baseline to day 43 (mean difference,-12.3 [95% CI, -17.5 to -7.2]; P <.001) and from baseline to day 8 (mean difference, -12.0 [95% CI, -16.6 to -7.4]; P < .001). Psilocybin treatment was also associated with significantly reduced Sheehan Disability Scale scores compared with niacin (mean difference, -2.31 [95% CI, 3.50-1.11]; P < .001) from baseline to day 43. More participants receiving psilocybin had sustained response (but not remission) than those receiving niacin. There were no serious treatment-emergent AEs; however, psilocybin treatment was associated with a higher rate of overall AEs and a higher rate of severe AEs. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:Psilocybin treatment was associated with a clinically significant sustained reduction in depressive symptoms and functional disability, without serious adverse events. These findings add to increasing evidence that psilocybin-when administered with psychological support-may hold promise as a novel intervention for MDD. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03866174.
Co-use of MDMA with psilocybin/LSD may buffer against challenging experiences and enhance positive experiences
Psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) experiences can range from very positive to highly challenging (e.g., fear, grief, and paranoia). These challenging experiences contribute to hesitancy toward psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy among health care providers and patients. Co-use of 3,4-Methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA) with psilocybin/LSD anecdotally reduces challenging experiences and enhances positive experiences associated with psilocybin/LSD. However, limited research has investigated the acute effects of co-use of MDMA and psilocybin/LSD. In a prospective convenience sample (N = 698) of individuals with plans to use psilocybin/LSD, we examined whether co-use of MDMA with psilocybin/LSD (n = 27) is associated with differences in challenging or positive experiences. Challenging experiences were measured using the Challenging Experiences Questionnaire and positive experiences were measured using the Mystical Experience Questionnaire and single-item measures of self-compassion, compassion, love, and gratitude. Potentially confounding variables were identified and included as covariates. Relative to psilocybin/LSD alone, co-use of psilocybin/LSD with a self-reported low (but not medium-high) dose of MDMA was associated with significantly less intense total challenging experiences, grief, and fear, as well as increased self-compassion, love and gratitude. Co-use of psilocybin/LSD and MDMA was not associated with differences in mystical-type experiences or compassion. Findings suggest co-use of MDMA with psilocybin/LSD may buffer against some aspects of challenging experiences and enhance certain positive experiences. Limitations include use of a convenience sample, small sample size, and non-experimental design. Additional studies (including controlled dose-response studies) that examine the effects and safety of co-administering MDMA with psilocybin/LSD (in healthy controls and clinical samples) are warranted and may assist the development of personalized treatments.
Are psychedelic medicines the reset for chronic pain? Preliminary findings and research needs
Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability, reduced productivity, healthcare seeking behavior, and a contributor to opioid overdose in the United States. For many people, pain can be satisfactorily managed by existing medicines and comprehensive psychosocial treatments. For others, available treatments are either ineffective or not acceptable, due to side effects and concerns about risks. Preliminary evidence suggests that some psychedelics may be effective for certain types of pain and/or improved quality of life with increased functionality and reduced disability and distress in people whose pain may never be completely relieved. Efficacy in these quality-of-life related outcomes would be consistent with the 'reset in thinking' about chronic pain management being increasingly called for as a more realistic goal for some people as compared to complete elimination of pain. This commentary summarizes the rationale for conducting more basic research and clinical trials to further explore the potential for psychedelics in chronic pain management. Additionally, if shown to be effective, to then determine whether the effects of psychedelics are primarily due to direct antinociceptive or anti-inflammatory mechanisms, or via increased tolerability, acceptance, and sense of spirituality, that appear to at least partially mediate the therapeutic effects of psychedelics observed in psychiatric disorders such as major depression. This commentary represents a collaboration of clinical and more basic scientists examining these issues and developing recommendations for research ranging from neuropharmacology to the biopsychosocial treatment factors that appear to be as important in pain management as in depression and other disorders in which psychedelic medicines are under development. This article is part of the Special Issue on "National Institutes of Health Psilocybin Research Speaker Series".
Letter to the Editor: What Is in a Name? The Many Meanings of Psychedelic
Examining the Rationale for Studying Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Caregiver Distress
A Systematic Approach to Standardizing Drinking Outcomes From Timeline Followback Data
Objective: The timeline followback (TLFB) interview is the gold standard for the quantitative assessment of alcohol use. However, self-reported "drinks" can vary in alcohol content. If this variability is not accounted for, it can compromise the reliability and validity of TLFB data. To improve the precision of the TLFB data, we developed a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) to calculate standard drinks more accurately from participant reports. Method: For the new SOP, the volume and alcohol content by volume (ABV) of distinct types of alcoholic beverages were determined based on product websites and other reliable sources. Recipes for specific cocktails were constructed based on recipes from bartending education websites. One standard drink was defined as 0.6 oz (14 g) of absolute alcohol. Standard drink totals were contrasted for the new SOP approach and the standard procedure, which generally assumed that one self-reported drink was equivalent to one standard drink. Results: Relative to the standard TLFB procedure, higher numbers of standard drinks were reported after implementing the TLFB SOP. Conclusions: Variability in procedures for conversion of self-reported alcohol consumption to standard drinks can confound the interpretation of TLFB data. The use and reporting of a detailed SOP can significantly reduce the potential for such inconsistencies. Detailed and consistent procedures for calculation of standard drinks can enhance the quality of TLFB drinking data.
A Systematic Approach to Standardizing Drinking Outcomes From Timeline Followback Data
OBJECTIVE/UNASSIGNED:The timeline followback (TLFB) interview is the gold standard for the quantitative assessment of alcohol use. However, self-reported "drinks" can vary in alcohol content. If this variability is not accounted for, it can compromise the reliability and validity of TLFB data. To improve the precision of the TLFB data, we developed a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) to calculate standard drinks more accurately from participant reports. METHOD/UNASSIGNED:For the new SOP, the volume and alcohol content by volume (ABV) of distinct types of alcoholic beverages were determined based on product websites and other reliable sources. Recipes for specific cocktails were constructed based on recipes from bartending education websites. One standard drink was defined as 0.6 oz (14 g) of absolute alcohol. Standard drink totals were contrasted for the new SOP approach and the standard procedure, which generally assumed that one self-reported drink was equivalent to one standard drink. RESULTS/UNASSIGNED:Relative to the standard TLFB procedure, higher numbers of standard drinks were reported after implementing the TLFB SOP. CONCLUSIONS/UNASSIGNED:Variability in procedures for conversion of self-reported alcohol consumption to standard drinks can confound the interpretation of TLFB data. The use and reporting of a detailed SOP can significantly reduce the potential for such inconsistencies. Detailed and consistent procedures for calculation of standard drinks can enhance the quality of TLFB drinking data.
Psilocybin for alcohol use disorder: Rationale and design considerations for a randomized controlled trial
Several lines of evidence suggest that classic psychedelics (5-HT2A receptor agonists or partial agonists) such as psilocybin might facilitate behavior change in individuals with substance use disorders. We conducted a multi-site, double-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess the effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in alcohol-dependent volunteers. In addition to a structured 12-week psychotherapy platform, participants (nâ€¯=â€¯96) were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either oral psilocybin or an active placebo (oral diphenhydramine) in each of two dosing sessions (at weeks 4 and 8). Initial doses were 25â€¯mg/70â€¯kg psilocybin or 50â€¯mg diphenhydramine, which could be increased in the second session depending on initial response. The psychotherapy platform combined evidence-based, manualized therapy for alcohol dependence with a supportive context for the dosing sessions. All participants were followed in the RCT through week 36. At the end of the RCT, participants who still met safety criteria were offered an open-label psilocybin session. Data collected at screening, baseline and throughout the study included: demographics, measures of alcohol use, subjective response to psilocybin and diphenhydramine, and safety measures. The primary outcome was the proportion of heavy drinking days during the 32â€¯weeks after the first dosing session (i.e., between week 4 and week 36). Secondary outcomes included safety, additional measures of drinking (e.g., abstinence, drinking days, etc.), craving, self-efficacy, and acute effects. We will also explore moderators and mediators of the primary outcome. The primary outcomes will be published elsewhere. In this paper, we describe the protocol and rationale for our design decisions.
Percentage of Heavy Drinking Days Following Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy vs Placebo in the Treatment of Adult Patients With Alcohol Use Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Importance/UNASSIGNED:Although classic psychedelic medications have shown promise in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD), the efficacy of psilocybin remains unknown. Objective/UNASSIGNED:To evaluate whether 2 administrations of high-dose psilocybin improve the percentage of heavy drinking days in patients with AUD undergoing psychotherapy relative to outcomes observed with active placebo medication and psychotherapy. Design, Setting, and Participants/UNASSIGNED:In this double-blind randomized clinical trial, participants were offered 12 weeks of manualized psychotherapy and were randomly assigned to receive psilocybin vs diphenhydramine during 2 day-long medication sessions at weeks 4 and 8. Outcomes were assessed over the 32-week double-blind period following the first dose of study medication. The study was conducted at 2 academic centers in the US. Participants were recruited from the community between March 12, 2014, and March 19, 2020. Adults aged 25 to 65 years with a DSM-IV diagnosis of alcohol dependence and at least 4 heavy drinking days during the 30 days prior to screening were included. Exclusion criteria included major psychiatric and drug use disorders, hallucinogen use, medical conditions that contraindicated the study medications, use of exclusionary medications, and current treatment for AUD. Interventions/UNASSIGNED:Study medications were psilocybin, 25 mg/70 kg, vs diphenhydramine, 50 mg (first session), and psilocybin, 25-40 mg/70 kg, vs diphenhydramine, 50-100 mg (second session). Psychotherapy included motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Main Outcomes and Measures/UNASSIGNED:The primary outcome was percentage of heavy drinking days, assessed using a timeline followback interview, contrasted between groups over the 32-week period following the first administration of study medication using multivariate repeated-measures analysis of variance. Results/UNASSIGNED:A total of 95 participants (mean [SD] age, 46  years; 42 [44.2%] female) were randomized (49 to psilocybin and 46 to diphenhydramine). One participant (1.1%) was American Indian/Alaska Native, 5 (5.3%) were Black, 16 (16.8%) were Hispanic, and 75 (78.9%) were non-Hispanic White. Of the 95 randomized participants, 93 received at least 1 dose of study medication and were included in the primary outcome analysis. Percentage of heavy drinking days during the 32-week double-blind period was 9.7% for the psilocybin group and 23.6% for the diphenhydramine group, a mean difference of 13.9%; (95% CI, 3.0-24.7; F1,86â€‰=â€‰6.43; Pâ€‰=â€‰.01). Mean daily alcohol consumption (number of standard drinks per day) was also lower in the psilocybin group. There were no serious adverse events among participants who received psilocybin. Conclusions and Relevance/UNASSIGNED:Psilocybin administered in combination with psychotherapy produced robust decreases in percentage of heavy drinking days over and above those produced by active placebo and psychotherapy. These results provide support for further study of psilocybin-assisted treatment for AUD. Trial Registration/UNASSIGNED:ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02061293.