UW Medicine to study psilocybin for mental health treatment

SEATTLE — A newly passed bill in Washington aims to further explore the power of psychedelic mushrooms as psychotherapeutic tools.

The University of Washington has agreed to conduct a research trial using psilocybin, a compound commonly known as the “magic mushroom,” to see if it can be used effectively and safely to treat mental health conditions. bottom.

The use of psilocybin in Washington state remains illegal in the state, but on May 9, Gov. Jay Inslee passed legislation to establish a state task force to further study psilocybin and lay the foundation for a long-term strategic plan. signed.

Known as SB 5263, the bill authorizes UW Medicine to begin a pilot program to safely access and study psilocybin.

Dr. Nathan Sackett, an addiction psychiatrist and professor at the University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said the state task force is developing and better understanding psilocybin as a potential mechanism of mental health treatment. Leading a pilot project to help

“This is a really useful way to address questions about safety and efficacy in patient populations that are not normally studied,” Sackett said.

Sackett is particularly interested in how psilocybin therapy can help people who are dealing with two disorders at the same time, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder.

“If we can safely deliver this therapy, it will probably give us even more confidence that we can safely deliver it to a larger patient population,” Sackett said.

Magic mushrooms have been decriminalized in recent years in Oregon and Colorado, but lawmakers in Washington say they need to learn more.

“If they’re going to play a role in potentially expanding access, we want to make sure it’s safe for everyone involved,” Sackett said.

The study will examine how the psychedelic compounds found in psilocybin interact with brain chemicals.

Professor Sackett explained that when magic mushrooms are ingested, the compound with the highest psychoactive effect is thyrosine, which enters the brain and acts on serotonin receptors.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates multiple bodily functions, including mood. Sackett’s team will study how psilocybin interacts with the parts of the limbic system that handle emotion, and the frontal cortex of the brain that handles reasoning and intelligence.

“This shifts the communication between these two parts, giving us the opportunity to re-evaluate our own internal narratives if necessary,” Sackett said.

However, Professor Sackett does not recommend consuming magic mushrooms on your own without authorized supervision, even for therapeutic reasons.

“The main therapeutic benefit comes in a controlled environment where you can develop a relationship with the therapist and someone who helps make the experience meaningful,” Sackett said.

Sackett added that he hopes to advance the science behind this potential treatment.

“I think we are at a point where more treatments are desperately needed for people suffering from mental health concerns and substance use disorders. We hope that they will move the needle around and give us more tools,” said Sackett. “We look forward to working together and moving forward with our patients.”

UW Medicine’s trial will begin in January 2025.

Sackett and his team will initially include 30 to 40 people, including veterans and first responders who have documented experiences with PTSD and alcohol use disorders.

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