Can Psychedelics Help Heal The Trauma Of The Pandemic?

Many people have suffered throughout this last year-and-a-half, but perhaps none more so than frontline workers like doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Which is why one psychedelic company is sponsoring a study to see if psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy with psilocybin is effective for frontline clinicians experiencing COVID-related distress

With previous research finding psilocybin-assisted therapy to be up to four times more effective than antidepressants, this begs the question: can psychedelics like magic mushrooms help us heal from the trauma of the pandemic?

The study

Cybin, a Canadian biotech company with a focus on psychedelic therapeutics, is co-sponsoring trial in collaboration with the University of Washington to see if psilocybin combined with psychotherapy will effectively treat symptoms of depression, anxiety, burnout and post-traumatic stress among frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.

The randomised, placebo-controlled trial will be hosted in Seattle, a city hit hard with an early coronavirus outbreak, and led by Dr. Anthony Back, who is a leader in the fields of palliative care and oncology. 

Cybin’s Chief Clinical Officer, Alex Belser, said: “Our nation’s doctors, nurses and clinicians have been shouldering the burden of COVID-19 by taking care of the sickest among us. They’re experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression and burnout. Now it’s our turn to help them.”

Previous research 

In recent years, a number of studies have highlighted the potent antidepressant effects of psilocybin. In 2020, for example, it was found that just two sessions of psilocybin-assisted therapy produced significant and lasting antidepressant effects. 

In fact, psilocybin-assisted therapy proved to be approximately two-and-a-half times more effective than psychotherapy on its own, and more than four times more effective than commonly-prescribed antidepressant drugs. 

“The effectiveness of psilocybin therapy after a single or only a few administrations represents another substantial advantage over commonly used antidepressants that require daily administration,” the study states. 

A study from last year found that psilocybin may produce these antidepressant effects by increasing the number of synapses in the brain and enhancing serotonin signalling.

UK psychedelic therapy

There was already a mental health crisis in the UK, even before the pandemic. But following many months of lockdown, social isolation and constant fear being pushed out be the media and government, the situation has only got worse.

Newly opened Awakn Clinic in Bristol is aiming to tackle that by currently offering a course of low-dose ketamine treatments alongside therapy sessions for people suffering with addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.

While the treatment is currently only available privately for around £6,000, the company’s ultimate aim is to have it available on the NHS in order “to help as many people as possible.”  


It’s becoming more clear to anyone with a bit of sense that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (also ketamine, DMT, MDMA, cannabis, etc) are very useful tools for treating mental health problems and conditions associated with trauma. Especially when combined with psychotherapy. 

However, it’s unlikely that psychedelic-assisted therapy will be available on the NHS anytime soon. 

That being said, psilocybin-containing mushrooms do grow in the wild in the UK toward the end of summer. You can also order grow kits and spores online completely legally. 

Therefore, with more and more studies proving the power of psilocybin and other ancestral plant medicines, and with a large percentage of the population feeling the effects of pandemic-related stress, expect mainstream interest in such topics to increase.

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