Early clinical trials have indicated that psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, could be a promising new treatment for anorexia nervosa.
The initial research, involving 10 female participants, revealed encouraging results and was free from any severe side effects.
Participants involved with the study suffering from anorexia reported improved quality of life and optimism after a single dose of psilocybin, while four participants entered remission from their symptoms after three months.
Anorexia nervosa is a severe mental illness characterised by an unhealthy fixation on body weight and image, leading individuals to restrict their food intake and, in some cases, exercise excessively.
It has a high relapse rate, with half of the hospitalised patients returning to the disorder within a year of discharge.
Despite its prevalence, affecting up to 4% of women and 0.3% of men, there are currently no approved medications to treat the condition.
This compound appears to activate brain receptors that respond to serotonin, a hormone whose function may be impaired in anorexia patients.
The ground-breaking trial involving psilocybin to treat anorexia included 10 women aged between 18 and 40.
Following the treatment, 90% of the group reported a more positive outlook on life, 80% ranked the experience among their top five most significant life events, and 70% reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.
However, the study had some limitations, including a lack of diversity and the absence of a control group.
Future research should include larger and more diverse participant groups and different psilocybin dosages to verify the preliminary positive findings.
Simultaneously, the results support the ongoing push for testing psilocybin for a variety of psychiatric conditions as well as anorexia.
Notably, COMP360, a pharmaceutical-grade synthetic psilocybin provided by study sponsor Compass Pathways, is in late-stage testing for post-traumatic stress disorder and has shown promising results in people with treatment-resistant depression.