Can DMT Treat Depression? UK’s First Approved Trial Will Find Out

The UK’s first clinical trial using DMT has been approved by regulators and will take place at Imperial College London. 

The study hopes to find out how effective the fast-acting psychedelic compound is at treating depression when combined with therapy. 

With DMT classified as a Class A drug in the UK, the approval of the study could be a ground-breaking moment in the treatment of depression.

What is DMT?

DMT is a natural psychedelic compound found within many plants and animals (perhaps all of them and mostly in trace amounts) including in humans where it is thought to be produced in the brain. It has a significant history of use in Mesoamerican and South American shamanic culture in the form of Ayahuasca.

When consumed via Ayahuasca brew – which includes a variety of plants from the Amazon rainforest – the effects of DMT can be up to eight or more hours long. When consumed in its isolated form, however, the intense hallucinogenic effects are over after about 20 minutes. Additionally, unlike most other psychedelics, you don’t build a tolerance to DMT. 

The potential use of DMT as a medical treatment has been recognised for decades, just as its good safety profile has.  

As well as producing hallucinations in which consumers commonly report contact with other-worldly entities, previous research has found that DMT can induce the growth of new brain cells

The London study

The study will be run by the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London in collaboration with a neuropharmaceutical company called Small Pharma.

It will initially see a group of healthy volunteers given DMT before a second group with depression are then administered the drug. The depresion group will receive psychotherapy counselling sessions as well.

Carol Routledge, chief medical and scientific officer at Small Pharma told The Independent that she believes psychedelic assisted therapy will revolutionise the treatment of depression “because it gets right to the root cause of the illness.” 

Peter Rands, CEO of Small Pharma said: “DMT delivers a psychedelic experience in 20 mins and has unique properties that lend itself to clinical use. By adopting responsible evidence-based research and development into psychedelic medicine, we hope to help rebrand these once stigmatised compounds as highly effective medical therapies, which can be integrated into current healthcare systems and made accessible to the millions of people suffering from depression.”

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