A study suggests that psilocybin found in magic mushrooms may be an alternative to depression treatments.
The psychedelic compound can help open up depressed people’s brains and work differently from regular antidepressants.
The study included 43 participants with severe depression and was completed in a span of 3 weeks.
What do experts say about magic mushrooms?
Lead author of the study and cognitive neuroscientists Richard Daws said, “psilocybin, it would seem, allows you to see things in an entirely new light, particularly when you have a psychotherapist who can help guide you through that experience.”
“You can unpack difficult experiences that might define how you see the world, which is interesting because that’s exactly what traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is trying to do.”
A neuroscientist at Neurobiology Research Unit in Copenhagen, Patrick M. Fisher, said, “one or two doses of psychedelic drugs seem to impart lasting clinical benefits and changes in personality and mood, and that’s an unusual characteristic of drugs.”
“Although these brain imaging data are important for resolving the brain mechanisms that support these lasting changes, this study leaves prominent questions unanswered.”
What are the concerns with magic mushrooms?
Furthermore, the associate director of the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, Dr. Stephen Ross, expressed concerns over the brief monitoring periods of the study.
He said, “it’s a little bit like looking out into the universe with a telescope and seeing interesting things and then starting to build theories based on that.”
“This is an important contribution though I’m more interested in what happens in three or six months.”
Dr. Daws further said, “these results are very promising, but obviously no one should go out and try and procure psychedelics without speaking to a doctor or a therapist.”
Head of Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research Professor David Nutt said, “these findings are important because for the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants – making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression.”
“This supports our initial predictions and confirms psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments.”
Professor Robin Carhart-Harris, a senior author on the paper, said, “the effect seen with psilocybin is consistent across two studies, related to people getting better, and was not seen with a conventional antidepressant.”
“In previous studies we had seen a similar effect in the brain when people were scanned whilst on a psychedelic, but here we’re seeing it weeks after treatment for depression, which suggests a ‘carry over’ of the acute drug action.”
How can magic mushrooms be an alternate depression treatment?
As per The World Health Organization, up to 5% of adults suffer from depression globally.
Magic mushrooms may work as an alternative treatment as one in three patients don’t fully recover from first-line drugs.
Dr. Nutt further said various doctors need to establish which approach is better for different patients.
In a few years, people may have a choice between taking a pill every day or having a psychedelic experience.
He further added the brains of people with depression typically have circuits that become more isolated from each other, a condition that’s linked to adverse cognitive bias, rigid thought patterns, and fixation regarding oneself and the future.
The study found psilocybin helped areas of the brain communicate better with one another, leading patients to experience an “emotional release,” optimism, and more psychological flexibility.
While magic mushrooms may be an alternative depression treatment, various research is yet to determine its effects.
Nevertheless, adults with depression must not administer magic mushrooms as treatment without a doctor.
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