A new psychedelic-like ‘wonder drug’ could treat depression and post-traumatic stress disorder—without causing hallucinogenic ‘tripping’.
Psychedelics have long shown promise for treating a host of mental illnesses, and now scientists have identified a compound that provides only the benefits.
Named AAZ-A-154, it has the potential to repair chemical pathways in the brain, say the US researchers.
Study co-author Dr David Olson, a chemist at University of California, Davis, explained: “One of the problems with psychedelic therapies is they require close guidance and supervision from a medical team… A drug that doesn’t cause hallucinations could be taken at home.”
Experiments using a fluorescent sensor called psychLight showed the new drug activates a gene that makes serotonin—the body’s ‘feel good’ hormone.
The most common antidepressants, such as Prozac, also work by triggering the serotonin 2A receptor.
The study, published in Cell journal, found there is no hallucinogenic impact of AAZ-A-154—and therefore no nasty comedown.
Experts believe one of the advantages of psychedelic drugs is they promote neural plasticity—allowing the brain to rewire itself. It opens the door to a medication that works in a single dose or a small number of doses, rather than having to be taken indefinitely.
Mental illness affects an estimated billion people across the world, with depression being the most common type—blighting the lives of 250 million. But patients having to undergo a “psychedelic trip” raises ethical and health concerns.
For example previous research has shown psilocybin, a constituent of psychedelic ‘magic mushrooms’, quickly reduces symptoms, but also causes side effects.
That AAZ-A-154 comes without a ‘trip’ is hopeful news indeed, and we’ll be sure to post updates to this story as they come in.
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