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Johns Hopkins researchers to study psilocybin as a treatment for anorexia in Phase 1 trial

Published on 28/08/19 at 11:06am

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are exploring psilocybin as a potential treatment for chronic anorexia nervosa.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Unit are launching a Phase 1 trial into the safety and efficacy of ‘magic mushroom’ ingredient psilocybin as a treatment for anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa has the highest rate of mortality of any psychiatric disorder. In 2017, a study found the psychedelic Ayahuasca showed promise as a treatment for the condition.

Speaking to New Atlas, Natalie Gukasyan, a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University said: “This open-label study will test the effects of two moderate to high doses of psilocybin given in combination with motivational interviewing-based psychotherapy. Our goal is to determine whether psilocybin can be safely administered in a supportive setting to people with anorexia nervosa (AN), and whether this intervention can produce improvements in mood, quality of life, and cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the disorder.”

“We seek to determine if psilocybin can have similar effects in those suffering with AN. The pathophysiology of AN remains obscure but some evidence suggests that the serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor system may be involved. The action of psilocin, the active metabolite of psilocybin, is mediated by stimulation of these receptors. AN also shares phenomenological parallels to anxiety and addiction, both of which have been shown to improve with psilocybin-assisted interventions.”

“If our intervention is effective the next steps would be to further clarify the mechanism by which it works, perhaps with brain imaging or other neurocognitive measures. Phase 2 and 3 studies with larger sample sizes and placebo-controlled conditions would be necessary to further establish this as a viable treatment for AN.”

Louis Goss


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