Francisco Moreno

Francisco Moreno, MD

University of Arizona Health Sciences

Psilocybin versus placebo in Treatment Resistant Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a highly prevalent condition that leads to great disability and human suffering because of limitations in efficacy of current treatment options. Psilocybin, a pharmacological agent with psychedelic properties believed to be a strong agonist of 5HT1a, 2a-2c, and regulate cellular signaling pathways through its interaction with the metabotropic glutamate 2 (mGlu2) receptor may may have significant benefit in OCD patients when used under safe clinical supervision. Anecdotal reports and results from a preliminary study conducted by the P.I. support this rationale.

Our study seeks to enroll 15 patients with symptomatic OCD who are psychotropic medication free, in a double blind, controlled design of a) low dose psilocybin (100 mcg/kg), b) high dose psilocybin (300 mg/kg), or c) Lorazepam 1 mg PO (Ativan ®). Study drug will be ingested 8 times, one week apart. Psychophysiological, Neuroimaging, clinical, and behavioral effects of psilocybin are measured at baseline, and various points throughout testing. Efficacy, safety and tolerability are being measured with standard clinical trial methodology.

Preliminary observations suggest that study drug is leading to significant improvements in OCD symptoms. Preliminary analysis comparing blinded drug assignments will be presented. Given that psilocybin is a potent psychedelic agent that particularly at the higher dose may induce altered states of consciousness, a thoughtfully implemented procedure for protection of human subjects is in place for the safeguard of participants. Additional data will be obtained to explore the effects of the psychedelic experience itself in the outcome of treatment.


Dr. Francisco Moreno is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He serves in a variety of roles at our institution including as: Associate Vice President at the University of Arizona Health Science, leading the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Site Principal Investigator and Engagement Lead with the NIH-Precision Medicine Initiative’s grant “All of Us Research Program”; Principal Investigator of the Arizona Health Career Opportunity Program from DHHS-Health Resources and Services Administration grant “Arizona HOPE” which works to support the competitiveness of a diverse pipeline of students for health professions in our state; Multiple Principal Investigator of an NIH-NHLBI grant to enhance the research skill and career advancement of early career faculty from diverse backgrounds who seek to improve health equity.

He has been conducting research in biology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, geared to improve our understanding of the brain basis for mental illness and the underlying mechanism of action of antidepressants / antianxiety drugs, and treatment resistance. In collaboration with partners from the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology, Medical Imaging, and the Clinical and Translational Science center, he is conducting cutting edge research in the use of psychedelic agents for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and exploring the sleep, brain imaging and electrophysiology biomarkers of treatment response.



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