Not that anyone following me on Twitter will be surprised to hear this – but – in case you haven’t, there is research coming out of Johns Hopkins Medicine that is good news for sufferers of major depression.
From the article –
The findings of a small study of adults with major depression, published Nov. 4, 2020, in JAMA Psychiatry, suggest that psilocybin may prove effective in a larger population of patients with intractable depression than previously appreciated.
This is great news. Do remember that it is only a very small study. Only 24 participants. But, the findings mean that there could be more trials and greater acceptance (and knowledge) of using psilocybin to treat major depression.
Griffiths and his colleagues reported that two doses of psilocybin during medically supervised treatment — supplemented by supportive psychotherapy — produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms.
Apparently mice on LSD and psilocybin twich their heads. Fascinating. But then, if I was a mouse and my world had gone all psychotropic I suspect there would be some head twitching, too.
So what do tripping mice have to do with Complex PTSD?
As many readers may already know LSD and psilocybin are two controlled substances that have been demonstraated to help alleviate mood disorders. In light of CPTSD these mood disorders may include depression, major depression, persistent depression and psychotic depression. (yes, we are such a fun bunch. </sarcasm>)
Why do these drugs help with Complex PTSD?
The simple answer is ‘brain chemistry’.
The longer answer goes like this: There is a receptor in the central nervous system called 5-HT2A. This receptor is where serotonin binds to the cell. Serotonin in the brain is linked with mood, anxiety regulation, sexuality, memory, and some social fascets. In essence, your brain is bathing in serotonin. This is why SSRI – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – class drugs are often prescribed to people with symptoms of depression. Simple logic – raise the level of serotonin in the brain –> lower the presence of depression symptoms.
Guess what else binds to 5-HT2A. If you said magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD you are correct.
However, these drugs also induce hallucinations. Psilocybin is “a Schedule I controlled substance because it has no approved medical purpose and the potential for abuse.”** LSD is also a Schedule I controlled substance. ***
What scientists are trying to discover is – what is the difference between a compound that binds to 5-HT2A that causes hallucinations vs. one that does not. That discovery will open an area of research into new antidepressive medication. It could also prove valuable for people who need antipsychotic medication.
So far scientists have produced two compounds based on this research that demonstrate antidepressant activity without hallucinations in mice.
There is a long step between the lab and a safe effective human medication. The process can take years. But, there is hope, and growing proof, of a new way to help people who suffer from a chronic imbalance of brain chemistry.
I recommend you go read the study, but for a short recap I’m going to break it down here. The main take away point from the study is this:
The largest group of outcomes involving the brain from having COVID-19 are mental health issues.
And really, who could be surprised by that?
I’m in no way attempting to minimize the role of mental health. (Seriously, have you looked at the rest of this blog?) But, I did want to show the data behind those horrid headlines in the media.
Mental health is a serious matter, and the recent study demonstrates that the next wave to follow COVID-19 might be a series of mental health crises. I’m not the first person who has espoused this possibility. Nor, do I think I will be the last.
IF anything, this study has demonstrated that mental health is interwoven with physical health. The first order is to preserve life, but we must not abandon the fundamental human need to live.
The data below is taken from Table 2, of the study. The table below shows the rates of each outcome for COVID-19 patients at the four levels of severity – non-hospitalization, hospitalization, ICU admission, and delirium. Additionally, the data is organized from most common to least common Based on the “No hospital” column.
Mood, anxiety, or psychotic disorder (any)
Anxiety disorder (any)
Mood disorder (any)
Mood, anxiety, or psychotic disorder (first)
Anxiety disorder (first)
Substance use disorder (any)
Mood disorder (first)
Nerve, nerve root, or plexus disorders
Substance use disorder (first)
Ischaemic stroke (any)
Psychotic disorder (any)
Psychotic disorder (first)
Data are percentage at 6 months (95% CI)
All the other outcomes, which were all physiological, were under 0.50% Those include: Intracranial hemorrhage, Ischaemic stroke, Parkinsonism, Guillain-Barré syndrome, Myoneural junction or muscle disease, and Encephalitis.
If you go read the study, which I recommend you will see that it was well constructed and thorough. I have a small niggle with the combination of outcomes they chose to examine – but in the end the brain is all about chemistry, so I can’t really complain.