Two recent clinical studies have shown that magic mushrooms containing psilocybin can relieve anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.
Mankind has been using magic mushrooms for thousands of years and for many reasons. Ancient cultures around the world have used the dream-inducing properties of mushrooms. They have played an important role in the development of rituals and spiritual beliefs. Some even believe that they were the catalyst for our ancestors’ intellectual development, which led to the development of civilisation as we know it today.
Due to the strict prohibition, only a fraction of the information has come to the surface through scientific research on mushrooms and psilocybin. Magic mushrooms are lumped in with truly harmful substances such as heroin and cocaine. Prohibition ended any hope of using psilocybin in science and medicine to understand the mind better and heal psychological wounds. New studies have the potential to change all that. After more than 50 years of ignorance about the beneficial effects of psilocybin and mushrooms, a new light is shining on what was once largely taboo. Psilocybin may in fact be the key to unlocking the deepest secrets of the human psyche and helping people.
RECENT STUDIES ON PSILOCYBIN
Both studies were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and contain supporting articles and commentary from some of psychology’s biggest names. Dr. Stephen Ross, director of the NYU Langone Campus for Addiction, is the author of the study. The aim was to determine whether psilocybin has an effect on patients with very advanced cancer and the psychological stress that accompanies it. The patients suffered from a range of conditions, from anxiety to depression.
Of the 29 people who took part in the study, about 80% reported a significant reduction in the symptoms they suffered. Symptom relief was seen immediately after the effects of psilocybin wore off and continued long after the experiment. Some reported lasting positive effects for six months after the initial treatment.
51 patients participated in a similar study at John Hopkins University. Not surprisingly, the results were consistent with those of the NYU study. 80% of participants reported a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms that lasted for six months. 83% of participants reported that they had developed a new approach to life and that their well-being had increased significantly. Many described feelings of love, which should also be a familiar topic for many of those who have used magic mushrooms in their spare time.
According to participant Dinah Bazer, “The intense feeling of love lasted for weeks and four years later I still feel it sometimes. I was able to fully manage my feelings of fear and dread and they never came back.”
Dr Roland Griffiths, lead scientist and author of the John Hopkins study, said the key to understanding these effects is carefully conducted, controlled experimentation, while cautioning against reckless use which can have unpredictable side effects. Despite his caution, he is confident in the research and the potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin to treat mental illness.
Researchers know how mushrooms affect the brain. They also know that in addition to the short-term treatment of symptoms of anxiety and depression, a single dose can provide long-term relief. It is these points that the researchers are trying to connect. How psilocybin and magic mushrooms work is still a bit of a mystery, but there are some hypotheses. Researchers have a good understanding of how psilocybin interacts with the brain. They even know that it helps to form new connections in the brain. However, they do not understand the link between the chemical reactions and how they affect consciousness. Consciousness remains the greatest mystery in the universe.
Psilocybin is metabolised to psilocin in the body. Psilocin is the active ingredient that induces the psychedelic experience. Psilocin binds to the same receptors as serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Depression was once thought to be caused by a lack of serotonin, but new studies have shown that low serotonin levels are not the only cause. While researchers believe that there is a link between serotonin, serotonin receptors and depression, they are unable to explain it. Disruption of the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin undoubtedly plays a role in the healing effects of those who have participated in recent studies. Further research on this topic could fundamentally change the perception of psychology and the treatment of mental disorders.
NOT JUST A PARTY DRUG
The implications of using psilocybin as a drug are overwhelming. Patients no longer need to be cornered and consume potentially dangerous pharmaceutical substances to solve a problem that no one really understands. Anyone who has decided to try psilocybin to alleviate their symptoms of anxiety and depression will long report the initial effects of the magic mushrooms beyond feelings of love and increased well-being. In addition to treating anxiety and depression, magic mushrooms have the potential to successfully treat PTSD, addictions, and even conditions like bulimia.
One of the most difficult things in life is facing one’s own mortality. Psilocybin and other psychedelics such as LSD can help people reconnect with themselves and with long-suppressed feelings. For those suffering from debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, a psychedelic experience can be a way of coming to terms with their lives and easing the dying process. The benefits of magic mushrooms and their healing potential far outweigh the risks and reasons for banning them. This fact alone should prompt us to take a different view of the current state of legalisation, at least for the purpose of further research.
Magic mushrooms are not just for a good time on a Saturday night. They have the potential to help us understand the workings of our minds and to cure the psychological disorders we have suffered from for centuries. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to magic mushrooms is far-reaching and has prevented us from making medical and scientific progress.