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DMT drug
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Psychedelic drug DMT is being trialled to treat depression

The drug will be given alongside psychotherapy in a UK trial by Small Pharma and Imperial College London

The first clinical trial of using the psychedelic drug DMT to treat depression has been given the go-ahead by UK regulators, AKA the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Run by London-based pharmaceutical company Small Pharma in collaboration with Imperial College London, the trial will initially involve giving the hallucinogenic drug to healthy subjects who have no previous experience with such drugs. An expected second trial will then see DMT administered to patients with depression, alongside psychotherapy.

“The psychedelic drug breaks up all of the ruminative thought processes in your brain – it literally undoes what has been done by either the stress you’ve been through or the depressive thoughts you have – and hugely increases the making of new connections,” Carol Routledge, Small Pharma’s chief scientific and medical officer, tells the Guardian

“Then the (psychotherapy) session afterwards is the letting-things-settle piece of things – it helps you to make sense of those thoughts and puts you back on the right track.” 

“We think this could be a treatment for a number of depressive disorders besides major depression, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and possibly some types of substance abuse.”

Back in 2019, a study found that just one psychedelic trip can have lifelong benefits, with two thirds of those involved reporting long-term positive life changes they believe were triggered by the trips. Other studies have opened up avenues for using different drugs as a health cure in recent years. Magic mushrooms and ketamine have also been proven to reduce depression, while MDMA is shown to help with reducing social anxiety.

Earlier this year, Dazed talked to people who claim to have found God after taking psychedelics. “I’ve been dealing with depression for as long as I can remember but with DMT I felt like my mind was free,” explained one person, named Martha. “With DMT I felt like I was really seeing the world. For the first time, I was thinking outside myself. That experience made me appreciate life more.”

While it’s hoped that the initial, MHRA-approved DMT trial can start in January 2021 – with the lowest dose that can trigger a psychedelic experience – Small Pharma still has to get approval from the Home Office, due to the fact DMT is currently listed as a class A controlled substance.