Psilocybin ‘hope for OCD’

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is among the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders, but there may be hope in hallucinogens for these patients. OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by the repetitive or ritualistic performance of behaviours such as excessive washing, checking, and counting. Sufferers can be plagued by intrusive thoughts, ranging from unwanted sexual fantasies to committing violent acts.

OCD is treatable although the cause is not fully understood. But half of patients relapse when drugs are withdrawn and a quarter do not respond to conventional therapies at all. Even when medication is effective, a 30-50% reduction in symptoms is the best that can be achieved. And if the therapy and drugs don't work, invasive brain surgery is the only remaining option.

Hallucinogenic drugs containing psilocybin may bring a change to this fact, so proves a study by Dr Francis Moreno, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The need for more treatment options and anecdotal reports of OCD patients undergoing periods of remission after using hallucinogens led Moreno and colleagues to give psilocybin to nine people who had had not responded to other treatments. The patients did see a significant reduction in symptoms for up to 24 hours after they were given psilocybin even on the lowest dose.

In this study, the people taking the drug rated the hallucinogenic experience as 'stressful' at some times but 'psychologically and spiritually uplifting' - describing encounters with past lives, faraway planets, and communing with deities.
Dr. Paul Blenkiron, a consultant in adult psychiatry at Bootham Park Hospital, York expresses his concerns. 'About 12% of people can suffer flashbacks after less than 10 exposures [to psychedelics] many years later, beyond the six months of this study, so long term effects should be carefully assessed.' However: 'If this substance was effective and had fewer side effects in severe treatment-resistant case, it would be an option.'

Dr Moreno stressed that this study was about demonstrating safety: 'If the question is: 'did we find enough information to support exploring this further?', then we got some interesting findings which support the need for a proper controlled study.'

Full article on BBC News.