Univ. of Washington researchers to test psilocybin in healthcare workers affected by pandemic

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(University of Washington photo)

Can psilocybin help ease the mental health burden of clinicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s a question researchers at the University of Washington aim to address in a new clinical trial testing psychedelic medication in combination with psychotherapy.

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Trials could start within a month, UW doctor said Anthony Back, co-director of the university’s Center of Excellence in Palliative Care, which is leading the trial.

Healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients are facing a range of stresses, said Back, who also has wrote a guide On COVID-19 communication skills for clinicians, including self-care.


“It just hurts a ton to see all these people dying in front of them, who died in a very physically uncomfortable way. There’s a lot of moral hurt that they didn’t do enough,” said back in an interview with GeekWire. “Many of them feel really badly that people’s families were not able to stay with them because of the COVID isolation procedures.”

On top of that, some patients are difficult or hostile. “Patients who yell at you and say you’re lying to them, that COVID is a lie,” Back said. “I’ve talked to many physicians who have been spat on by patients in the hospital because they are very angry. And there are some people who have patients litter the bed with feces.”

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And while there are several ongoing trials using psilocybin to treat depression, health workers are experiencing something more complicated. Other symptoms include post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and irritation.

“In a way, it’s bigger than just depression. There’s a kind of disillusionment and reckoning going on,” said Back.

Your Physician Anthony Back. (Your Photo)

The test, to test for psilocybin in healthcare workers, is a first to Beck’s knowledge. The study will enroll 30 physicians with a condition called depression, anxiety, and existential crisis. A treatment series developed in partnership with a Toronto-based psychedelics company will also include a psychotherapeutic component in the trial sybin, one of the test funds.

After two sessions of psychotherapy, 15 of the participants would be treated with a single dose of psilocybin and 15 with a placebo, followed by three follow-up “integration” sessions.

After four weeks of taking psilocybin, participants would be assessed primarily for anxiety and depression, but also for existential distress, burnout, post-traumatic stress, and other states. The participants would then be blinded, and the drug would be made available to patients in the placebo group on an open-label basis.

“Psychedelics give your brain a kind of reset. So that patterns of thinking, the circle going round in your head, the psychedelics disrupts that and gives people a chance to see what it is like without it,” Back said People can then take insight from the experience and ask, “How am I going in the future?”

The UW test uses a pure form of psilocybin, the psychedelic component of magic mushrooms. (Bigstock Photo)

a similar approach is behind increasing number Clinical trials testing psilocybin in conditions ranging from migraine to opioid use disorder. Drug for depression run by UK-based Compass Pathway receives largest-ever trial run mixed results In the initial Phase 2B data released in November. Those on the highest dose had reductions in depression compared to those on the very low, control dose – but they also had higher rates of suicidal behavior and other adverse events.

Compass is planning a larger trial that may be able to assess whether the effects on depression persist and whether the side effects in the smaller trial are a fluke. compass raised $127 million The public offering last fall, part of a growing wave of investments in the sector. During the first four months of 2021, psychedelics startups Pulled in $329 Million in venture financing.

According to a Cybin, the University of Washington trial recently cleared its final regulatory hurdle, an investigation receiving approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in a new drug application approval letter. Statement This week. The new test will inform another trial Cybin is planning on a modified form of psilocybin that may have different effects.

Woodinville, Wash.-Based caamtech There is another company researching new psychedelics. CaaMTech recently raised $22 million and in November announced partnership with the University of Wyoming to test its compounds in laboratory animals.

Neither Beck nor the University of Washington has a financial relationship with Cybin or any other psychedelics company, other than in support of the trial, Back said. Other funders of the trial are the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation, and the RiverSticks Foundation.

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