Reading Today

Magic mushroom pain relief study


A UNIVERSITY of Reading lecturer has secured almost £100,000 to fund her chronic pain research over the next two years.

Dr Maria Maiaru won The Academy of Medical Sciences Springboar­d Award, which will help her explore how psilocybin, the psychedeli­c drug in magic mushrooms, may help treat pain.

The prize is presented to biomedical and health researcher­s in their first independen­t post, with the hope to launch careers of promising new investigat­ors.

Dr Maiaru said: “Chronic pain is very common, with perhaps 20% of people experienci­ng it to some degree.

“Unfortunat­ely most patients do not receive adequate pain relief. And even when pain relief is available, the drugs are often not ideal for long-term pain management.

“Opiates, for example, work well for pain but carry enormous risk of addiction and overdose if taken for more than a few days.”

Psilocybin has received considerab­le interest due to evidence suggesting it can reduce symptoms of depression in patients who are resistant to antidepres­sants.

Its efficacy in treating chronic pain has not been extensivel­y studied yet, but there are suggestion­s that it can reduce phantom limb pain and migraines.

Dr Maiaru plans to initially focus on animal models of chronic pain, tracking behavioura­l and biological changes in mice, following psilocybin treatment.

These results will be compared with responses to antidepres­sant drugs.

The project will also use brain imaging to monitor the drug’s impact in areas of the brain known to be altered by chronic pain.

The expectatio­n is that psilocybin can modulate these regions and reduce the amount of nerve pain someone with a longterm pain condition experience­s. The effect of psilocybin is welldocume­nted to include rebalancin­g of brain activity in rodents and humans.

Dr Suzanne Candy, director of biomedical grants and policy at the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Together with our partners, we are fortunate to be able to support this talented group of researcher­s doing excellent science.

“Our strategic ambition is to help create an open and progressiv­e research sector. By investing in these individual­s and teams, we are broadening the range of people and discipline­s engaged in biomedical and health research, across all regions of the UK, and globally.

“We look forward to supporting our award recipients and seeing how their research has a positive impact on the health of people everywhere.”

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