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Psilocybin Is Safe to Use in 10mg and 25mg Doses, Study Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 05, 2022   
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The psychedelic drug psilocybin is safe to use in 10 milligram (mg) and 25 mg doses, according to researchers from King's College London.

The researchers came to their conclusion after providing the drug to participants in a controlled trial of psilocybin-mediated therapy.

The trial’s details and findings were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

In the trial

Psilocybin is the active psychedelic component of magic mushrooms, and has shown promise when used in therapy settings for the treatment of depression.

To test the safety of the compound in such a setting, a research group at King's College London recruited 89 participants for a randomized, double-blind trial that was held between August 2018 and July 2019.

Thirty recruits were randomly picked to receive a 25 mg dose of psilocybin, while another 30 were picked to receive the 10 mg dose. The remaining 29 participants acted as the control group and received a placebo. All 89 participants received a one-to-one session with a therapist after taking their dose.

Following the session, the participants were then assessed by their therapist and a psychiatrist, who recorded their subjective experiences.

In total, 511 “adverse events” were recorded from all participants, the most common of which were hallucinations, illusions, and headaches.

Crucially, though, very few of these side effects were deemed serious by the researchers.

When comparing the responses of psilocybin-dosed and placebo-dosed participants, the researchers also noted that psilocybin seemed to improve the participants’ sustained attention, working memory, and their levels of executive function and planning.

However, the King's team noted that their trial had its limitations and that further trials will be needed to properly determine the safety of psilocybin therapy.

“The fact that participants were typically highly educated, and the small sample size, could have limited the generalisability of results,” the researchers wrote in their study. “These findings warrant further investigation in clinical populations.”

The study was funded by Compass Pathways, a pharmaceutical company that produces synthetic psilocybin for clinical and therapeutic purposes.

“This study was an early part of our clinical development programme for COMP360 psilocybin therapy,” Guy Goodwin, Compass Pathways’ chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“We are looking forward to finalising plans for our phase III programme, which we expect to begin in Q3 2022.”

Psilocybin therapy

Previous research into psilocybin has suggested that the compound exerts its psychedelic effects by acting on the body’s serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR). Through this mechanism, and the presence of a trained therapist, many psychedelic researchers believe that psilocybin could become a valuable drug for the treatment of depression.

Indeed, a recent trial conducted by another team at Imperial College London found that psilocybin matched the antidepressant potential of the more conventional antidepressant drug escitalopram. 

Remarking on the study last April, Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial, said that the “results comparing 2 doses of psilocybin therapy with 43 daily doses of one of the best performing SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor] antidepressants help contextualize psilocybin’s promise as a potential mental health treatment. Remission rates were twice as high in the psilocybin group than the escitalopram group.”


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