Recent Study Shows Potential Benefits of Treating Depression with Psilocybin

By Jeff Zuber – August 2, 2021

A recent study from Yale University researchers sheds new light on the potential of the psychedelic drug psilocybin when it comes to treating depression. This new information comes to light as some places have begun decriminalizing or legalizing the naturally occurring compound.

In an article entitled “Psilocybin induces rapid and persistent growth of dendritic spines in frontal cortex in vivo,” the researchers showed that just one dose of psilocybin that was given to mice created an increase in neural connections. In fact, the impact of psilocybin occurred immediately and the study showed that the increase in connections persisted for a lengthy period of time. The study was published on July 5 in Neuron, which is considered one of the leading journals in the field of neuroscience.

The researchers had a number of findings that raises hope for utilizing psilocybin in treating depression, though it remains unclear how it works with the brain as well as how long the effects last. According to the study, the researchers saw that psilocybin helped with the “stress-related behavioral deficit” within mice. The researchers could see an increase in both the spine density as well as the spine size (roughly around ten percent each) in the frontal cortical pyramidal cells in the mice they used in the study. The overall “psilocybin-evoked structural remodeling” remained for a minimum of one month, and the researchers also saw that the “dendritic rewiring” also occurred alongside “elevated excitatory neurotransmission.” According to the researchers, the fast and long-lasting benefits of psilocybin in the brains of mice is quite promising, ultimately showcasing the compound as a potentially beneficial drug in the treatment of depression.

Under current federal law, psilocybin is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This means that it is illegal to possess psilocybin-producing mushrooms, even if it is for personal consumption. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, does provide special licenses for psilocybin to be used for scientific research under strict standards.

Despite its illegal standing on the federal level, there has been movement around the country when it comes to decriminalizing—or even legalizing—psilocybin. In 2019, Denver made headlines after voters approved the decriminalization of psilocybin. This past November, the District of Columbia also voted to decriminalize psilocybin, while Oregon became the first state to vote to legalize psilocybin.

Ultimately, the recent study conducted by the researchers from Yale marks the most recent evidence that psilocybin could be a potentially beneficial treatment for depression in humans. As recently as the end of 2020, there was an article published in JAMA Psychiatry entitled “Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder” that showcased promising results for patients who were treated with psilocybin.

Psilocybin remains illegal on the federal level. However, in recent years and in the wake of scientific research on the benefits of the compound when treating depression, there has been a recent push in some cities and states to change the law.

Jeff Zuber

Jeff Zuber is a founder of Zuber Lawler. He focuses on high-stakes intellectual property, regulatory and commercial litigation. He does this work for Fortune companies and funds, as well as leading cannabis companies. He is increasingly focused on representations relating to the emerging psychedelics industry. He’s had extreme success representing clients in hotly contested corporate and partnership disputes in the “plant” medicines industry going back 15 years. He recently won a $65 million award in an arbitration over a cannabis distribution contract relating to The Weekend Box, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees. He is a graduate of Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington.

Click here to learn more about our Los Angeles, California, USA member Zuber Lawler LLP.