Feeds

Try a 'shroom before ruling on chill pills, boffin tells gov

Ministers 'irrational' on depression-busting hallucinogen

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The government may never be able to “think rationally” about the therapeutic properties of hallucinogenic drugs, says Professor David Nutt. The top boffin was speaking on the publication of two new studies that show the anti-depressant qualities of magic mushrooms.

Prof Nutt, who was sacked from his role as Blighty's top drug adviser for questioning the law's classification of banned substances, said: “[The government's] attitude to these drugs is so utterly irrational that you kind of think, 'maybe that irrationality is so pervasive that they could never think rationally'.”

The pair of latest studies found that the effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, may counter depression - and help sufferers relive happy moments.

Asked whether this would mean that the government would ever approve a drug based on psilocybin, Prof Nutt said: “Of course they'd have to. What's fascinating is that you could think they wouldn't, and of course you're right.”

Developing a product that uses psilocybin requires the thumbs-up from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which said in a statement: “The MHRA considers each individual product on its merits and any information which may have a bearing on the product's status, for example, the claims made for the product [and] the pharmacological properties of the ingredients.”

Psilocybin was classified as a Class-A drug under the Drugs Act 2005, placing it in the same category as cocaine, heroin and methadone.

MRI scans while trippin'

In one of the new studies, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 30 healthy volunteers had their brains scanned by MRI while researchers infused their blood with psilocybin. The scans showed a decrease in activity in the brain's “hub” regions, areas that are especially well-connected to other areas.

The decreased oxygen and blood flow to these “hub” regions correlate with study participants' reports of unusual bodily sensations and an altered sense of space and time. One region affected was the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is known to be hyperactive during depression. The researchers believe that psilocybin's effects here could explain the antidepressant properties of magic mushrooms.

"Previous studies have suggested that psilocybin can improve people's sense of emotional wellbeing and even reduce depression in people with anxiety,” said Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the studies.

"This is consistent with our finding that psilocybin decreases mPFC activity, as many effective depression treatments do. The effects need to be investigated further, and ours was only a small study, but we are interested in exploring psilocybin's potential as a therapeutic tool."

In the second study, to be published on Thursday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, volunteers were prompted to think about positive memories while their brains were scanned. Volunteers' memories were more vivid after taking psilocybin compared with a placebo.

Two weeks after the experience, participants' ratings of memory vividness under the drug showed a positive correlation with their wellbeing. The drug also increased activity in the regions of the brain that process sensory information such as vision.

Prof Nutt confirmed that since news of the findings broke yesterday, he has received emails from patients asking to be recruited into a trial. “These people are desperate and it would be iniquitous for any government to deny them treatment,” said Prof Nutt. “It makes me choke.” ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.