Top image

Pioneering research

In the last decade, a number of research groups in Europe and the Americas have conducted studies into the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research is the first to gain this level of stature within a major academic institution.

When delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris

Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research

Ours was the first Centre in the world to investigate the brain effects of LSD using modern brain imaging and the first to study psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – for treating severe depression. These studies have laid the groundwork for larger trials that are now taking place around the world. Other pioneering work from the group includes breakthrough neuroimaging research with psilocybin, MDMA and DMT (the psychoactive compounds found in ecstasy and ayahuasca respectively).

Earlier this year the group began a new trial directly comparing psilocybin therapy with a conventional antidepressant drug in patients with depression – a study for which they are still recruiting volunteers. Building on this, they also plan to begin another new trial next year to explore the safety and feasibility of psilocybin for treating patients with anorexia.

Dr Carhart-Harris adds: “It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging. Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options.”

If you are a student interested in conducting research with our Centre, please see the page join our research team.

Research publications


BibTex format

author = {Carhart-Harris, RL and Bolstridge, M and Day, CMJ and Rucker, J and Watts, R and Erritzoe, DE and Kaelen, M and Giribaldi, B and Bloomfield, M and Pilling, S and Rickard, JA and Forbes, B and Feilding, A and Taylor, D and Curran, HV and Nutt, DJ},
doi = {10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x},
journal = {Psychopharmacology},
pages = {399--408},
title = {Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up},
url = {},
volume = {235},
year = {2017}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - RATIONALE: Recent clinical trials are reporting marked improvements in mental health outcomes with psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy. OBJECTIVES: Here, we report on safety and efficacy outcomes for up to 6 months in an open-label trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. METHODS: Twenty patients (six females) with (mostly) severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. Depressive symptoms were assessed from 1 week to 6 months post-treatment, with the self-rated QIDS-SR16 as the primary outcome measure. RESULTS: Treatment was generally well tolerated. Relative to baseline, marked reductions in depressive symptoms were observed for the first 5 weeks post-treatment (Cohen's d = 2.2 at week 1 and 2.3 at week 5, both p < 0.001); nine and four patients met the criteria for response and remission at week 5. Results remained positive at 3 and 6 months (Cohen's d = 1.5 and 1.4, respectively, both p < 0.001). No patients sought conventional antidepressant treatment within 5 weeks of psilocybin. Reductions in depressive symptoms at 5 weeks were predicted by the quality of the acute psychedelic experience. CONCLUSIONS: Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessions and remained significant 6 months post-treatment in a treatment-resistant cohort. Psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression that warrants further research in double-blind randomised control trials.
AU - Carhart-Harris,RL
AU - Bolstridge,M
AU - Day,CMJ
AU - Rucker,J
AU - Watts,R
AU - Erritzoe,DE
AU - Kaelen,M
AU - Giribaldi,B
AU - Bloomfield,M
AU - Pilling,S
AU - Rickard,JA
AU - Forbes,B
AU - Feilding,A
AU - Taylor,D
AU - Curran,HV
AU - Nutt,DJ
DO - 10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x
EP - 408
PY - 2017///
SN - 0033-3158
SP - 399
TI - Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up
T2 - Psychopharmacology
UR -
UR -
VL - 235
ER -