Did You Know…magic mushrooms may help subdue the symptoms of depression?
It’s been difficult for researchers to study psychedelics because of government restrictions, but the few studies done on magic mushrooms—yes, the kind with the hallucinogenic effect—show a beneficial impact on depression.
The latest research published May 2016 in the Lancet Psychiatry suggests that a compound in magic mushrooms called psilocybin may help alleviate long-term depression when combined with traditional forms of therapy.
A Small but Promising Study
A small pilot study made up of 6 men and 6 women with severe depression that was unresponsive to other treatments suggests that psilocybin may decrease depressive symptoms over the long term:
The first week, patients received a 10-milligram capsule of psilocybin. For week two, they took 25 milligrams of psilocybin and underwent supportive therapy with a psychiatrist.
All patients reported fewer symptoms for at least 3 weeks after treatment. Three months later, 7 patients continued to enjoy a decrease in their symptoms, and of those 7, 5 remained in remission.
A 2014 study further demonstrates the positive influence psilocybin may exert on the brain. Researchers analyzed fMRI brain scans of patients injected with 2 milligrams of psilocybin and patients injected with 2 milligrams of a placebo. Those injected with the drug showed enhanced cross-brain activity. New links formed across regions of the brain that were previously separated.
The researchers explain: “The brain does not simply become a random system after psilocybin injection, but instead retains some organizational features, albeit different from the normal state.”
Researchers theorize that these new connections are what cause the hallucinogenic effects, such as seeing colors, but they also believe the new connections may somehow play a role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
A 2012 study showed that psilocybin muted activity in certain regions of the brain that are normally awake and alive, especially the area of the brain responsible for sense of self. Researchers have linked this part of the brain to depressive tendencies, as those with depression may have too many circuits connected in the sense-of-self region. Dulling these connections and making room for new neural pathways may be contributing to the anti-depressant effects of psilocybin.
A History of Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms, from the genus Psilocybe, have been used in religious and spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years. The psychotropic tryptamines psilocybin and psilocin don’t technically cause hallucinations, or visions of things that aren’t actually there, but distort the perception of actual objects. So you might see colors or patterns, or sounds and tastes may be altered. One mushroom contains anywhere from 0.2 to 0.4 percent psilocybin.
Is it legal to grow or use magic mushrooms, or “shrooms” as they are affectionately called? It depends on the state. Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act called the Psychotropic Substances Act.
Officials say that it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use (more research needs to be conducted), and isn’t safe for use even under a doctor’s supervision—but the same was said about marijuana, which is now gaining credibility as a medicinal treatment for a variety of conditions.
Therefore, we will keep you posted as hopefully more research comes in on this promising psychedelic compound and its effects on depression.