Magic mushroom depression therapy prepped for controversial clinical trial

David Nutt, a prominent and often controversial investigator at Imperial College London, has landed about $800,000 from the U.K.'s Medical Research Foundation to test the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" as a possible new treatment for depression.

Working with the knowledge that psilocybin has been linked to long-term relief for cases of serious depression, Nutt has lined up a manufacturer able to produce a dose that can be injected in about 30 patients. Investigators will take brain scans of the volunteers to help determine how the therapy works.

Three years ago, Nutt was bounced out of his role as chairman of the U.K. government's advisory council on drugs after making some controversial remarks on the relative dangers of ecstasy. And it hasn't been easy getting to this stage of his work on psilocybin, relying heavily on help from supporters. Even if the drugs works in the trial, there's a major hurdle between his treatment and any kind of marketed product: It's an illegal substance.

"One of the things to change in parallel with the trial is the law," he told The Financial Times. "Otherwise the big problem is if it works, no one will be able to prescribe it."

- here's the feature from The Financial Times