A man who volunteered to take the magic mushroom ingredient psilocybin as an experimental treatment for depression has described how the drug helped him “stay connected” with his dead mother.
Kirk Rutter, 45, from London, said he was “truly heartbroken” by the loss of his mother and became deeply depressed after her death in October 2011.
Antidepressants did not help, so he agreed to join 11 other patients taking part in a UK pilot trial investigating the potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin.
The treatment involved swallowing a high dose capsule containing enough of the Class A drug to induce a psychedelic “high”.
Kirk said: “I was very nervous about taking part, as I had no prior experience of psilocybin. However the team explained the research, and guided me through the process. By the time it came to taking the compound I felt very relaxed, thanks to the friendly staff, room layout and calming music.
“The study involved taking two doses of psilocybin, and both times I experienced something called ‘psychedelic turbulence’. This is the transition period to the psychedelic state, and caused me to feel cold and anxious. However this soon passed, and I had a mostly pleasant – and sometimes beautiful – experience.
“There were certainly some challenging moments during the sessions. For instance, when I experienced being in hospital with my mother, when she was very ill. And during the high dose session I visualised my grief as an ulcer that I was preventing from healing so that I could stay connected to my mother.
“However by going through memories, and feeling the love in our relationship, I saw that letting go of the grief was not letting go of her memory.
“Following on from the sessions I felt lighter and more optimistic than I had in quite some time. However it certainly wasn’t a ‘quick fix’, and I needed to work at staying positive.
“Since then I have approached life and friendships with a fresher viewpoint. For instance I try not to get irritated by little things, and rather than getting annoyed by petty issues I try to embrace the core, loving part of a friendship. For the last few months I’ve started to feel less positive but I’m still doing great.”
All the patients recruited for the trial were suffering from moderate to severe treatment-resistant depression that had not responded to two different antidepressant drugs.
The study, which was not randomly controlled, found that after three months, five of the patients remained depression-free. Two others continued to show an improvement in their symptoms.
Psilocybin is a Class A drug, possession of which can result in a maximum prison sentence of seven years. It is also listed as a “Schedule One” controlled drug, meaning that it cannot be prescribed by doctors.