Psychedelic compound found in toads tested as alcoholism treatment

London researchers to assess possible therapeutic benefits of new synthetic drug made from mebufotenin.

London scientists are to trial a psychedelic compound found in toads as a potential treatment for alcoholism.

The researchers at King’s College London will examine the possible therapeutic benefits of a new synthetic drug made from the psychedelic compound Mebufotenin. This is found naturally in the Colorodo river toad and in mushrooms belonging to the Amanitaceae family of fungi.

BPL-003 has been created by Beckley Psytech, a British research firm which is evaluating the use of psychedelics as a treatment for mental illnesses. For the Phase II trial, patients suffering from alcoholism will be given a single dose of BPL-003 along with talking therapy around quitting drinking.

Patients will then be followed for 12 weeks with safety and efficacy assessments conducted at multiple points throughout the period. Alcoholism is estimated to affect roughly 237 million people around the world with three million deaths each year attributed to it. In England there are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers, according to Alcohol Change UK.

Cosmo Feilding-Mellen, chief executive of Beckley Psytech, said: “There is increasing evidence demonstrating the therapeutic effect of psychedelics for substance use disorders.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of this field of research, exploring how short-acting formulations like BPL-003 might address and reduce the burden that conditions like alcohol use disorder have on individuals, society and healthcare systems more broadly.”

Enrolment for the trial will be commencing soon with the first patient expected to be treated later this month. Preliminary results are anticipated later this year.

Separate UK trials are also exploring the potential of drugs such as magic mushrooms, ketamine and MDMA to treat depression, bipolar disorder and anorexia nervosa.

A trial conducted last year at 22 international sites found that a single 25mg dose of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, helped to alleviate symptoms of treatment-resistant depression.

Those who took a larger dose (25mg) of psilocybin reported a significant reduction in symptoms after three weeks compared with those who took the lowest dose (1mg).

Australia recently approved the use of MDMA and psilocybin in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

The open-label study by Beckley Psytech was developed in collaboration with Professor John Marsden, an addiction expert psychologist from the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre at KCL.

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