• What is The Psychedelic Drug Trial about?

    The Psychedelic Drug Trial is a documentary that follows David Nutt's 2019 clinical trial comparing psilocybin mushrooms with Escitalopram for depression.

  • Why is this kind of research important?

    David Nutt shows the importance of this research at the beginning of the documentary by stating that depression is the leading cause of disability in the western world. This means we need more treatments — and stat!

  • What were the results of the trial?

    Researchers found that psilocybin was not significantly better than Escitalopram. However, according to secondary measures, psilocybin performed better. Researchers concluded that there were not adequate comparison measures between psilocybin and antidepressants.

Those of us who dabbled slightly prelegalisation might know — but science is just catching up. All of the wonderful things we genuinely experience and believe, the phenomena of the psychedelic landscape that somehow draws out so much meaning and healing are finally under scientific scrutiny. Professor David Nutt, who we’ve mentioned in a previous article as a revolutionary of the psychedelic movement, has pioneered a first of its kind clinical trial with psilocybin magic mushrooms.

It’s called The Psychedelic Drug Trial.

Aired on BBC on the 19th of May, The Psychedelic Drug Trial follows the journey of David Nutt’s 2019 clinical trial on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on clinical depression. Not only do you get to witness the results of the trial in real time, but also the challenges of designing and executing a study like this.

Prof. David Nutt has done the growing community of magic mushroom enthusiasts a great service in the creation of this documentary, making scientific research incredibly accessible. It’s also extremely exciting to witness psilocybin mushrooms in the clinical space and how they are being researched.

Overall, we highly recommend watching The Psychedelic Drug Trial. It’s an interesting insight into a clinical trial, and the preliminary findings from this trial give all the more reason to continue researching magic mushrooms.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the western world.

“Depression is the leading cause of disability in adults in the western world, more than cancer, more than heart disease.” 

The Psychedelic Drug Trial begins with David Nutt quoting this very important statistic. It’s the set and setting of his study. It’s what creates the reason to spend lots of money researching psilocybin’s effects on this disease in the first place. He continues by saying that the ultimate reason there are so few studies on this therapy is that these drugs are illegal. 

Depression, along with anxiety are among the most common reasons to self-medicate with magic mushrooms. So it’s also extremely important that we continue to expand the body of clinical research to understand whether or not it will be a clinically viable treatment.

Not dramatic enough to be revolutionary.

An illustration of a woman with a mushroom cap on her head sitting on a shining sun with sunflowers.

As you come to learn throughout the documentary, psilocybin would have to pass some pretty epic tests for it to be considered a “valuable treatment”. It has to be comparable in efficacy to the leading treatment for depression. The first line of treatment for depression is a group of antidepressants called SSRI’s. 

According to the results of the study, the effects of psilocybin were positive. But apparently, not dramatic enough to make it a revolutionary treatment for depression.

At the same time, this is one of so few modern clinical trials on the effects of psilocybin for depression. There is still a long way to go for designing these studies and understanding where, if any, its place in clinical practice might be.

One thing the documentary lacks is an investigation into the very problems that surround antidepressant use. For example, the fact that they are not effective for everybody, take a long time to be effective, and have a wide range of side effects. Also, the fact that disability is the leading cause of disability in the western world means that our current treatment isn’t working very well.

Insight into the participants.

A digital art depicting an astronaut floating into a close up eye that looks like the galaxy. Depiction of the psychedelic journey undertaken on the psychedelic drug trial.

The documentary focuses strongly on the participants, their stories, and the effects of the study on their personal lives. The participants take you on a journey, in their own words, through experience, both during the mushroom trip and afterwards.

The participants described themselves as having a burden lifted, being free of obsessive thoughts and fixations, and feeling happy again. One participant, Joe, says “There’s been a fundamental shift in me that allows more light in.” Another participant, Matt, compares psilocybin therapy to talk therapy, “Talking therapy helps you believe something to be true. Psilocybin helps you know it.” 

It’s interesting to watch the documentary through the eyes of the participants. Again, it would have been nice to see a little more of an investigation into some of the grand social effects of depression and the reason it’s so important to research this! The Psychedelic Drug Trial does delve into how psilocybin fell off the radar of clinical research, though.

Overall, The Psychedelic Drug Trial is worth the watch. It’s a good insight into how psilocybin affects people personally rather than reading it through the publication. It’s also nice to hear David Nutt talk about it and delve into the world of clinical research. On that note, here’s the link to the research itself.

What did you think of The Psychedelic Drug Trial? We’d love to hear what you thought after watching it. Let us know in the comments! 

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