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Psilocybin as a Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa: A Pilot Study

Researcher contact:

Dr Meg Spriggs,

Research Associate,

Centre for Psychedelic Research,

Division of Brain Sciences,

Imperial College London,


This study aims to 1) assess the feasibility and possible efficacy of the psychedelic “psilocybin” in treating anorexia nervosa; 2) use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the brain mechanisms of this treatment

What is the purpose of the research?

Psilocybin is a controlled drug and a constituent of so-called ‘magic mushrooms’. Psilocybin produces a range of subjective effects including altering the way things look and sometimes eliciting emotional insights and visions. Recent studies, including our own, suggest that psilocybin may have a role in managing conditions such as depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder through working on the serotonin system in the brain. The main purpose of this study is to test the whether psilocybin can be helpful in treating anorexia nervosa. We will also be looking at how psilocybin treatment might work in the brain using measures of brain activity called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG). If this small pilot study is successful, we hope to follow this with a further large clinical trial, in which we can further explore the effectiveness of this treatment.

Who can take part?

We are looking for females aged 21 to 65 who have been suffering from anorexia nervosa for 3 years or more, have a BMI of 15 kg/m2 or greater, and who have found other forms of treatment ineffective. All participants must be under the care of an eating disorder service and GP in the UK, must have an identified support person (family or friend) who we can work with throughout the trial, and be able to attend study visits at our centre in Hammersmith, London. Further inclusion and exclusion criteria can be found here:

What does the study involve?

Following screening, each participant will attend 8 study visits held at the Hammersmith campus of Imperial College London. These visits will occur across a 6-week period, and will include three doses of psilocybin, given in a therapeutic environment. These doses will vary, but all participants will receive a high dose during the study. Across this 6-week period, there will also be 2 MRI scans and 5 EEGs, as well as tasks and questionnaires to complete at home (at least once per week). There will also be additional video-calls throughout. After these visits, there will be a 6-month follow-up period which will include monthly questionnaires, and video-call follow-ups on at least 2 occasions. 1 year after the study, there will be one final set of questionnaires and a video-call follow-up. All participants are also required to identify a support person (family member or friend) who we can work with throughout the study. This person will take part in regular calls with the study team. This person can also optionally take part in a support person study, involving a questionnaire (sent twice) and a video-call interview (once).

If you have any questions or would like more information about the purpose of the study or what it involves, please do not hesitate to contact the study team

How can someone take part?

A summary of inclusion/exclusion criteria, a copy of the study summary sheet and a self-referrals form can be found here: People who think that they might like to participate and believe that they might be eligible are asked to complete the self-referral form. A member of the study team will then be back in touch with further information. Any questions can be emailed to