Helmed by Prof David Nutt, this documentary follows volunteers as they swap antidepressants for psilocybin … and it’s the closest they’ve come to joy in years
In 2008, Prof David Nutt was made chair of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. A year later, Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist, was sacked by the same government after insisting – I paraphrase minimally – that fags and booze were more dangerous than cannabis and ecstasy. Twelve years on, he is still clearly furious about it – not the sacking, but the lack of evidence-based thinking behind it. “I just couldn’t bear to mislead the public … their policies were so wrong,” he says in The Psychedelic Drug Trial (BBC Two). The hour-long documentary follows Nutt’s flagship study with Dr Robin Carhart-Harris into the possible uses of psilocybin (AKA magic mushrooms) as an alternative and potentially better treatment for depression than the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are commonly prescribed.
For this double-blind trial, 59 carefully screened volunteers with long-term depression are divided into two groups. One group will be given two doses of psilocybin three weeks apart. The other will be treated with escitalopram, an SSRI. Everyone is closely supervised by medical staff and a clinical psychologist at all times. Don’t try this at home, kids.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.