The University of Washington is partnering with psychedelic biotech company Cybin to investigate whether magic mushrooms can help treat healthcare workers suffering from COVID-related distress.
According to a recent survey published by The Lancet‘s EClinicalMedicine, 49 percent of healthcare workers are currently suffering from professional burnout. Out of over 20,000 respondents, 61 percent also said they were afraid of catching the virus, 43 percent said they suffered work overload, and 38 percent said they were experiencing anxiety or depression.
In cooperation with Cybin, the University of Washington will conduct a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study exploring how psilocybin-assisted therapy could help sustain frontline health professionals during this time of crisis. This research will specifically focus on treating symptoms of anxiety, burnout, depression, and PTSD among frontline doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
Dr. Anthony Back, physician and professor of Oncology and Medicine at the University of Washington, will serve as Primary Investigator in the new trial. The study will be hosted in Seattle, a city hit hard by an early outbreak of the virus.
“There is tremendous potential in a collaboration between the University of Washington and Cybin to move the field forward, and this project is an incredibly valuable initial step towards a productive future,” Dr. Back said in a statement.
To help support this research, Cybin Chief Clinical Officer, Alex Belser, PhD and PhD candidate Bill Brennan have developed a transdiagnostic psychotherapy model called EMBARK. Cybin CEO Doug Drysdale describes EMBARK as “a ground-breaking psychotherapy model aimed at delivering best-practice, supportive healing in conjunction with psychedelic therapeutics.”
“Our nation’s doctors, nurses, and clinicians have been shouldering the burden of COVID-19 by taking care of the sickest among us,” said Dr. Belser in a statement. “They’re experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression, and burnout. Now it’s our turn to help them. We are sponsoring research to see if psychedelic medicine, when used with EMBARK’s supportive therapy, can help clinicians recover from COVID-related distress.”
Although this is the first study to specifically focus on frontline clinicians suffering from COVID-related distress, prior research studies have already found that psilocybin and other psychedelics can effectively treat many of the symptoms these professionals are dealing with. Recent studies report that even one single dose of psilocybin can reduce anxiety for up to five years, and other research has indicated that magic mushrooms can treat depression more effectively than ketamine or traditional antidepressants.