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Magic Mushrooms for Depression

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Magic mushrooms are a characteristic kind of natural psychedelic drug that has been used for medical and spiritual purposes for centuries.

In most parts of the U.S, magic mushrooms are still illegal, because they contain Schedule 1 controlled substances psilocybin and psilocin.

However recent scientific reports show that taking magic mushrooms may potentially have medical value when it comes to treating depression. Thus recently The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the active compound psilocybin for use in drug trials so that the effects on patients with depression can thoroughly be studied.

What are magic mushrooms?

The term magic mushrooms refer to certain species of fungus that produce psilocybin and psilocin. All these compounds occur naturally in these types of fungi, that grow throughout the world. At larger doses, they are hallucinogenic, which means that they will alter your vision, produce auditory hallucinations, and distort one’s sense of time.

History of healing mushrooms

Mara Sabina, an Indigenous Mazatec shaman who used hallucinogenic mushrooms in healing ceremonies, brought magic mushrooms to westerners’ attention in the ’50s and ’60s. Since that point, American scientists have been studying magic mushrooms and their healing properties, how to treat depression and mental illness, and even how to help people struggling with drug abuse.

Decriminalization of psilocybin doesn’t mean the drug is legal, it just means that it isn’t a law enforcement priority. The legality of this substance is solely to determine the therapeutic potential in clinical use.

Magic mushrooms for depression and anxiety?

Dr. Nathan Sackett, assistant professor in the UW School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences stated that psilocybin has shown potential for helping patients who struggle with anxiety or depression, and possibly other mental health conditions. His idea is to utilize psilocybin along with other therapies rather than as a standalone treatment for the treatment resistant depression, with the goal of improving patients well being, and giving them long-lasting relief.

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Magic Mushrooms for Depression

A 2016 study of hallucinogenic mushrooms for terminal illnesses

In 2016 a study was conducted, that found that psilocybin can significantly and rapidly reduce feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anxiety in patients diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer.

A 2020 study of hallucinogenic mushrooms for mental health disorders

In 2020 study found that it can aid patients who have a treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. From these studies, psilocybin seems to be a uniquely useful new treatment for anxiety and depression.

Dr. Sackett also stated that it’s possible that the drug can act as a catalyst during the therapeutic process. Psychotherapy with psychedelics such as psilocybin-assisted therapy, with only a single dose can often be as effective as multiple sessions of traditional supportive psychotherapy, and this type of therapy can reveal intense things and lead to profound insights.

However, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department will need to conduct more studies to research and better understand these claims, so that they can be published in JAMA Psychiatry medical journals.

Psychedelic and consciousness research

The psychedelic compound psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, alleviates major depression for up to a year, according to new clinical trials.

In a study of adults with a long-term history of depression, a combination of supportive talk therapy and two doses of psilocybin led to depressive symptoms being suppressed and stabilized through a year of follow-up. This indicates that the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms may be an effective treatment for depression.

Psychedelic and consciousness research was conducted for 12 months in a controlled environment at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. Three-quarters of the study participants responded to antidepressants, and more than half are in remission.

Roland Griffiths Ph.D., founding director of the center and a study investigator, said in a statement “Psilocybin not only produces significant and immediate effects, but it also has a prolonged duration, which implicates that it may be a surprisingly useful new treatment for depression,”

He also stated that one or two treatments with this compound are capable of enduringly relieving depression symptoms, unlike standard antidepressant medications, which must be taken for long periods of time.

“The results of an experiment conducted at Johns Hopkins University School were in research settings. Structured support and preparation support from therapists and trained clinicians were required, therefore people should not attempt to try psilocybin therapy on their own,” stated Natalie Gukasyan, MD, who also worked on the study regarding psilocybin’s effectiveness.

Recent study

One more recent study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, included 5 men and 19 women with moderate to severe depression. Over half of the respondents reported using antidepressants during their current depression episodes, and the majority had previously been treated with antidepressant medication in order to relieve depression and improve their mental health.

Study participants were required to attend six to eight hours of “preparatory” meetings with two people trained in psilocybin therapy before beginning psilocybin treatment. A controlled environment was then used to administer two doses of psilocybin about two weeks apart.

Depressed patients returned for follow-up 1 day and 1-week father every session, and from then at 1-3-6 and 12 months after the second session.

Research shows that taking psilocybin led to a large decrease in depression in participants. It may have the potential to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety since patients reported that current depressive episodes remained less severe up to 12 months after.

No serious side effects related to taking psilocybin mushrooms have been noted in the long-term follow-up period. Mental health professionals and researchers say that further research is needed so that psilocybin’s antidepressant properties can be thoroughly examined.

In this particular research setting, there are implications that psilocybin antidepressant effects may last much longer than 12 months. However, further research is needed to explore the chances of psilocybin’s antidepressant effects that may last much longer than 12 months.

Psilocybin-assisted therapy

Over the past 20 years, there has been a growth in research utilizing classic psychedelics, such as psilocybin mushrooms and various other compounds. National Institute on Drug Abuse, has stated that psilocybin has been proven to have hallucinogenic effects and the ability to alter a person’s awareness, thoughts, and feelings as well as other perceptual changes. Therefore psilocybin treatment has shown promise to treat various mental health disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.

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Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London stated that the psilocybin treatment study they’ve conducted, has shown the potency of this compound and that it’s safe and fast acting. In a particular study on magic mushrooms, all patients who had depression showed improvements only one week after the treatment!

Due to its fast-acting nature, hallucinogenic mushrooms are attractive as a treatment for depression, as antidepressant medication and/or therapy can take weeks to show results. This may be problematic if the depression is severe.

The Clinical Approach

Being treated for depression with this particular compound is significantly different from recreational use. The administration of the substance is done in a controlled environment under the watch of medical professionals to ensure one’s safety and effectiveness.

An alternative way of treating depression

It’s hard to predict exactly when magic mushrooms will be legalized as anxiety and depression treatment, but many people are hopeful it will be soon.

Another med-free treatment for depression that has shown good results is TMS therapy (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).

The effects of TMS therapy are more effective than meds, and the best part is it’s covered by insurance and Medicare.

Even those with treatment-resistant depression benefit from the sessions because they are short and provide long-term relief, in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.

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Pros and Cons of fighting depression with psychedelic mushrooms

Clinical trials with the use of psychedelics regarding the treatment of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and many other mental health ailments have been conducted and researched for decades. As standardized research has been observed for less than 10 years, a clear pros and cons profile hasn’t been determined yet. However, here is what we know from all the recent studies.

Pros

  • Oral antidepressants may take up to four weeks to show results, for people with treatment resistant depression it may even take longer. On the other hand, psilocybin has a fast-acting response of a few hours to a week.
  • It restores neurotransmitter levels in the brain and brings it natural chemical balance.
  • Psilocybin offers long-lasting relief. With only two doses of psilocybin gave most patients a month of relief from their symptoms of depression.
  • Psilocybin is not addictive
  • Psilocybin is completely safe when administered in a controlled clinical environment.
  • It can relieve the anxiety that most of the time accompanies depression.

Cons

  • Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning there is limited access to this compound. For now, the only way that psilocybin can be implemented into the therapy is when FDA approves research on this matter.
  • There are no long-lasting side effects from taking psilocybin. However, the psychedelic experience will be noticeable, and side effects such as visual and auditory hallucinations are most commonly reported. Although these side effects may be very pleasant, there is a possibility of them being distressing or even frightening. They fade away within a few hours of administration.

Who should avoid psilocybin?

There are some groups of people who shouldn’t take psilocybin. For example, since psilocybin can temporarily raise one’s blood pressure and heart rate, it’s not advised to ingest this compound if you have an existing heart problem. Due to its hallucinogenic properties, people suffering from schizophrenia or psychosis should also avoid ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Is psilocybin addictive?

As you already know, psilocybin is illegal in most parts of the United States and has a status of Schedule I drug, meaning that DEA believes that it has a “high potential for abuse”.

Dr. Sackett says that this is not necessarily true. One of the reasons for this is that psilocybin doesn’t affect dopamine levels. Rather than that it affects serotonin levels which don’t interact with the same reward pathways as drugs like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and opioids, which are all dopamine-altering drugs.

Therapeutic microdosing

You probably have heard of microdosing, it’s a trend that involves taking very small amounts of the active substance. Hypothetically it alleviates symptoms of depressed state, anxiety, and helps in improving creativity. The doses are typically so small that no hallucinations shouldn’t be involved, it should feel as if you have taken nothing.

Dr. Sackett stated that there is very little research done on microdosing and that its effectiveness is under debate. Microdosing without consulting your doctor isn’t the best idea, he said.

Some anecdotal reports indicate that there are mental health benefits from microdosing, but on the other hand, there are claims that it worsens anxiety, and causes migraines and insomnia.

With so few studies on microdosing, more research should be done to come to a conclusion if it really is effective or not.

The bottom line

While hallucinogenic mushrooms and their compounds promise therapeutic aid for people who struggle with depression, and anxiety, or are going through terminal illness, more research needs to be conducted to determine their safety and best practices.

It’s important to note that this is not the only way of treating depression, there are many other therapeutic ways to do so. Support groups may come in handy if you are having a tough time-fighting depression on your own.

Psychedelics and Mental Health

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