Effects of SERT Inhibition on the Subjective Response to Psilocybin in Healthy Subjects

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University Hospital Basel

Status and phase

Completed
Phase 1

Conditions

Healthy

Treatments

Drug: Escitalopram
Drug: Placebo oral capsule

Study type

Interventional

Funder types

Other

Identifiers

NCT03912974
BASEC 2019-00223

Details and patient eligibility

About

Psilocybin is a classic serotonergic hallucinogen acting on the 5-HT2A receptor. It is used recreationally and in psychiatric research. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like escitalopram are first-line treatments for depression. They inhibit the serotonin transporter (SERT). This might cause a possible downregulation of postsynaptic 5-HT receptors, e.g. the 5-HT2A receptor. The aim of the study is to investigate the effects of psilocybin after escitalopram and Placebo pretreatment. Subjective and physiological effects as well as effects on gene expression will be assessed.

Full description

Psilocybin (the active substance in "magic mushrooms") is a classic serotonergic hallucinogen acting on the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. Psilocybin is used recreationally and in psychiatric research. First studies suggest efficacy in psychiatric disorders, such as depression. SSRIs like escitalopram are currently among the first-line treatments of this disorder. Escitalopram acts as a serotonin transporter (SERT) inhibitor. However, the link between this mechanism and its positive effects on mood remains to be established. Several studies suggest a possible downregulation of postsynaptic serotonin (5-HT) receptors such as the 5-HT2A receptor. The aim of the study is to assess whether SERT inhibition reduces expression of the gene coding for the 5-HT2A receptor and the response to psilocybin. Participants will be treated with escitalopram (10 mg in the 1st and 20 mg in the 2nd week) or placebo for 14 days. Pretreatment is followed the first study day. A single dose of psilocybin (25 mg) will be administered. Primary study endpoint are the subjective effects on consciousness (measured by the 5D-ASC total score). Secondary study endpoints include additional psychological measurements, plasma concentrations of psilocybin and escitalopram, hydroxytryptamine receptor (HTR) gene expression, as well as some safety measures (autonomic effects, ECG). The washout between the first study day and the second pretreatment will be at least 2 days. In the second pretreatment period, participants will be treated with placebo or escitalopram (cross-over) for another 14 days. This is followed by the second study day and administration of psilocybin (25 mg). Based on a power analysis the sample size is 24 participants (12 female and 12 male).

Enrollment

27 patients

Sex

All

Ages

25 to 65 years old

Volunteers

Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Age between 25 and 65 years.
  • Understanding of the German language.
  • Understanding the procedures and the risks that are associated with the study.
  • Participants must be willing to adhere to the protocol and sign the consent form.
  • Participants must be willing to refrain from taking illicit psychoactive substances during the study.
  • Participants must be willing to drink only alcohol-free liquids and no coffee, black or green tea, or energy drink after midnight of the evening before the study session, as well as during the study day.
  • Participants must be willing not to drive a traffic vehicle or to operate machines within 24 h after substance administration.
  • Women of childbearing potential must have a negative pregnancy test at the beginning of the study. Pregnancy tests are repeated before each study session.
  • Women of childbearing potential must be willing to use double-barrier birth control.

Exclusion criteria

  • Chronic or acute medical condition, including a history of seizures.
  • Current or previous major psychiatric disorder (e.g. psychotic disorders, mania / hypomania, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse).
  • Psychotic disorder in first-degree relatives, not including psychotic disorders secondary to an apparent medical reason, e.g. brain injury, dementia, or lesions of the brain.
  • Illicit substance use (with the exception of cannabis) more than 10 times or any time within the previous two months.
  • History of an angle closure glaucoma.
  • Pregnant or nursing women.
  • Participation in another clinical trial (currently or within the last 30 days).
  • Use of medications that may interfere with the effects of the study medications (any psychiatric medications and any medication with known pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions with escitalopram).
  • A corrected QT time (QTc), calculated by Bazett's formula, of over 450 milliseconds in males and over 470 milliseconds in females.
  • Tobacco smoking (>10 cigarettes/day).
  • Consumption of alcoholic drinks (>10 drinks / week).
  • Bodyweight < 45 kg.

Trial design

Primary purpose

Basic Science

Allocation

Randomized

Interventional model

Crossover Assignment

Masking

Triple Blind

27 participants in 2 patient groups, including a placebo group

Pretreatment with escitalopram
Active Comparator group
Description:
Pretreatment with escitalopram (10 mg for 7 days orally, 20 mg for another 7 days orally), followed by administration of psilocybin (25 mg orally) on the study day
Treatment:
Drug: Escitalopram
Pretreatment with placebo oral capsule
Placebo Comparator group
Description:
Pretreatment with placebo, followed by administration of psilocybin (25 mg orally) on the study day
Treatment:
Drug: Placebo oral capsule

Trial contacts and locations

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Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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