Can medically supervised psilocybin treatments address behavioral and psychiatric disorders?
12/05/2019 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

Magic mushrooms are fungi that contain the active ingredient psilocybin, a powerful psychedelic that can cause mind-altering experiences in the user. While some may brush these shrooms off as remnants of the hippie movement back in the '60s, researchers, on the other hand, are looking into the positive effects of psilocybin on behavioral and psychiatric disorders.

Psychedelic shrooms

Magic mushrooms or "shrooms" are wild mushrooms that can be considered one of the most popular psychedelic drugs today. These mushrooms are usually eaten fresh, dried or even brewed in a tea. You can also bake these psilocybin mushrooms into cakes or brownies.

In the U.S., research shows that there are over 32 million lifetime psychedelic users in the U.S. alone. Two of the most popular ones include lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD) and psilocybin mushrooms. Despite being 100 times less potent than LSD, exposure to psilocybin can alter a person's perception of space and time, causing hallucinations and mystical experiences. (Related: Magic mushrooms are safest recreational drug, according to a new study.)

Unlike marijuana, which seen drastically increasing support in favor of legalization, the use of magic mushrooms is illegal in all but a few U.S. states. Also, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration still considers shrooms to be a Schedule I drug because it does not currently have an accepted medical use. However, several small, highly controlled studies have been allowed to examine the potential of shrooms for use in the medical and psychiatric fields.


Do you believe in magic?

Shrooms have been shown to have the potential to treat psychedelic and behavioral disorders including depression, excessive smoking, and alcohol addiction.

A study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse talked about the effects of psilocybin on substance abuse, specifically on smoking addictions. Researchers from John Hopkins University found that the psychedelic compound can be used to promote long-term smoking abstinence.

The researchers invited 15 smokers to participate in a 15-week combination treatment, which includes therapy, mindfulness training, and anti-smoking imagery. After the 5th week of the treatment, the researchers gave the participants a moderate dose of psilocybin and a higher dosage about two weeks later.

The results show that 67 percent of the participants remained smoke-free after a 12-month follow-up. According to Matthew Johnson, lead researcher of the study, using psilocybin is much better than using prescribed treatments like nicotine replacement.

A similar study published in the Journal of Pharmacology found that drinking and heavy drinking declined in participants after being treated with psilocybin.

'Magic' treatment for depression

Another study published in Scientific Reports found that psilocybin can "reset" the brain circuits that contribute to depression. Researchers from the Imperial College London observed improvements in patients with depression when treated with psilocybin. The researchers gave 19 participants two doses of psilocybin, as well as psychological support.

From the results of an MRI scan, they saw a reduction in depressive symptoms in all 19 patients at only a week after psilocybin treatment. The researchers observed a reduction of blood flow in certain areas of the brain that are associated with emotional processing, fear, and stress. They also found improved stability in another area of the brain linked with depression.

According to lead author Dr. Robin Cahart-Harris, psilocybin can be used as an alternative to prescribed antidepressants, which could have unwanted side effects.

“They work in a different way to antidepressants, and that’s one of the reasons they really could be a solution for depression,” said Cahart-Harris in an interview on Healthline.

Can magic mushrooms be the key to beating depression and other behavioral disorders? Unfortunately, You can't say that for sure. Taking psilocybin is still an illegal substance and should not be taken as self-treatment. Psilocybin used in medical studies is synthetic so usage of this compound outside of a legal and approved medical framework is highly discouraged.

Sources include: 1 2 3

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