Dr. Michael Hart on Psychedelics for Treatment of Depression

Dr. Michael Hart is a physician and the first medical doctor to open a “cannabis clinic” in London, Ontario, the ReadyToGo Clinic. Hart’s clinic also receives patients who seek ketamine therapy. We’re pleased to have Dr. Hart with us on The Dales Report to discuss psychedelics like ketamine and psilocybin, and their possible future in treating depression.

Here’s some highlights from the interview.

There’s a recent study lending legitimacy to medical practitioners who want to prescribe psychedelics for depression

For those out of the loop, the Imperial College London recently performed a clinical trial to compare psychedelics to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Specifically, they were comparing psilocybin to Escitalopram, and the study has proven there’s some merit to the idea of treating depression with psylocibin and other psychedelics.

Dr. Hart says he is “kind of surprised” at the conclusions of the study, which stated that psilocybin is as effective as an SSRI. However, he believes the results indicate there’s a “slight edge” for the psilocybin, which showed an improvement of about 8 points for the psylocibin group on their scoring, versus an improvement of about 6 points for Escitalopram.

Dr. Hart says in addition to the general improvement scores in the study, there’s also notes that the psilocybin group had a smaller rate of remission, and “significant increases” in their depression score – about 70% versus 48% in the SSRI group. But one of the big topics of consideration is side effects, which are common in SSRIs, and often include fatigue, headache, nausea, and sexual dysfunction.

You don’t want to always be prescribing drugs that interfere with these kinds of functions, he says. And they’re not observed in the groups that have been given psylocibin. Compared with the SSRIs, Hart says, “Psilocybin appears to be very tolerable and very safe.”

Peers in the industry eager to prescribe psychedelics for depression – and psylocibin is likely to be the first

Dr. Hart says that the major feedback from other physicians is that they’re eager “to get after this and prescribe it.” While there will be some doctors who believe that more studies need to be done, and he even agrees that more research should be done, he doesn’t feel that this should be an impediment to doctors using psychedelics like psilocybin right now.

While DMT is talked about in the research field, Hart says there’s less research already existing on DMT than there is on psilocybin, which is why he would guess it would be the first to be legalized.

People are inquiring more about ketamine

Mental health was a big issue before COVID, but people have been suffering more since. Dr. Hart uses ketamine therapy in his practice, which he says is important because it’s a different class of medication that most people haven’t had before, with a different mechanism of action. SSRIs have been prescribed for nearly 40 years now, and in all this time there hasn’t been another similar class of medication for treating depression, which is why psychedelics like psylocibin are so promising.

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