As awareness is growing around mental health issues like depression and anxiety, many sufferers are keen to determine if natural remedies may prove more effective than medication or therapy.
One such natural substance is psilocybin, a mushroom chemical that gives it psychedelic properties. So often associated with having hallucinations and commonly taken recreationally. So it might be surprising that several trials have looked into how the chemical might effectively overcome depression.
The Effects of Depression
Depression is a condition that affects millions of people across the world. In the US, it’s believed that 16.2 million adults will be affected by depression at some point in their life. However, it doesn’t discriminate – people from all walks of life and ages can become depressed. Luckily, awareness of the condition is ever-growing, and people have a better understanding of the causes of depression.
Depression might be a one-off bout or recurring. In either case, identifying the condition and seeking professional help are advised. If left untreated, depression can significantly impact a person’s life, physical health and well-being.
Sufferers of depression will often feel:
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Have a weakened immune system
- Little to no interest in social activities
- Weight fluctuations as they might overeat or avoid eating
- Difficulty remembering simple things and difficulty concentrating
While it’s normal to go through periods of sadness in life, if negative feelings persist for more than two weeks, it’s essential to seek advice before the condition worsens.
There are numerous antidepressants available that can be prescribed by a GP, but they often come with unpleasant side effects or aren’t effective on their own. Some sufferers of depression might seek therapy or counselling; however, this isn’t guaranteed to overcome depression for everyone. It is believed that 1 in 5 patients with depression do not respond to any intervention and will possibly relapse back into the condition.
That has led many to look for alternatives. Natural substances are more appealing as they often grow without modification and contain fewer chemicals with harsh side effects compared to prescribed medication.
Taking Mushrooms For Depression
So, where do magic mushrooms come in when treating depression? To better understand this unique link, it’s essential to look at how people used shrooms in the past.
Evidence points to the use of shrooms in shamanic rituals in North Africa and Central America. They believed that taking these magical mushrooms enabled them to communicate more effectively with the Gods and used them to increase spirituality.
Modern-day users have continued the tradition for more recreational reasons than rituals. Many users find that taking shrooms opens their minds and frees them of their ego and ‘social’ restraints. In addition to feeling euphoria and a general sense of positivity from an intense trip, some users have tapped into the exciting world of microdosing. This is where small, controlled amounts of magic mushrooms are taken, resulting in the user being able to deal with depression and anxiety effectively and generally improving their quality of life.
In recent years, trials have taken place to research how magic mushrooms affect depression sufferers. Imperial College London conducted one such study. They found that when they administered two doses of psilocybin to treatment-resistant patients, they later reported feeling decreased feelings of depression.
The patients also felt like they had experienced an emotional release during the therapy using psilocybin and a ‘reconnection’ to life.
Another study conducted by King’s College London also brought about promising results. They wanted to test the safety of using psilocybin rather than the actual effects it has on depression. Using 89 volunteers, they administered different levels of psilocybin to the patients and monitored them.
They concluded that no cognitive or behavioural side effects occurred from taking the psilocybin. These findings will be a significant step in opening new doors for trialling psilocybin against depression.
Why Mushrooms Help With Depression
Psilocybin, which is found in more than 75 different species of mushrooms, breaks down and turns into psilocin when it’s digested. This acts as a psychoactive agent, which has properties very similar to serotonin, and studies have shown that it can stimulate one particular serotonin receptor named 5HT2A . Serotonin affects our whole body, and healthy levels keep a person feeling positive and happy.
Researchers have described the effects of psilocybin as being capable of ‘rebooting the brain, providing new connections and deactivating connections that might have caused depression.’ Trials that monitored the brain of depression patients after they were given psilocybin, alongside psychological support, also found a reduced blood flow to parts of the brain that deal with emotional processing. The part of the brain usually associated with depression showed more stability.
Researchers quickly point out that while the results look good, people suffering from depression should not start self-medicating with magic mushrooms. The trials have been held in clinics, using controlled amounts and were administered alongside professional therapy, so you will not achieve the same results by attempting it at home.
With that being said, many users have found that taking microdosing amounts allows them to live a healthy life while overcoming depression. In addition, users feel like it helps them ‘refresh their brains’ and increase feelings of positivity. Of course, they might not work for everyone, but they could be a fantastic alternative for some, especially if they are treatment-resistant.
One thing is for sure; there seems to be much positive evidence to show how psilocybin could be a natural, less risky and more efficient way to treat mental health disorders. Hopefully, future trials will bring their benefits further to light.
References:https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic#1 https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/tl-tlp051616.php https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/magic-mushroom-depression-psychedelic-drug-mental-health-antidepressant-big-pharma-imperial-lsd-dmt-a8929796.html https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/201912/treating-depression-magic-mushrooms
Magic Mushrooms for Depression
The doctor kept describing my cancer as an outlier named small cell carcinoma. So yeah, I know it isn’t perfect. I’m chuckling today, but I wasn’t chuckling before, and then friend after friend would say something and tell me how much they supported me.
So, when I took the psilocybin, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the gratitude that I felt and gratitude for what it was, just gratitude. So I wouldn’t say I like to talk about it because it’s really beyond words; psilocybin is the psychoactive component in 180 species of psychedelic mushrooms; it’s made a comeback within science to treat various disorders such as distress with terminal cancer, addiction, depression or exploring some of the clinical targets.
Magic Mushrooms in Recent Mental Health Research
Up to 40% of Americans will get cancer at some point in life, and of those who get cancer, about half will have some diagnosable psychiatric disorder. If untreated is associated with a bunch of terrible outcomes, including depression, hopelessness, suicidality even decreased survival rates from cancer. But this spiritual, psychological, emotional and essential distress that’s a spare it’s harder to reach doctors are not trained on how to help patients deal with a spiritual crisis or emergency or any of that sort of thing shrooms it appears targets to this existential or spiritual distress.
Magic Mushrooms for Mental Health
I was shocked that it worked because, in our cancer trial, we found one dose of shrooms had immediate reductions in anxiety and depression, lasting for weeks to months, which is unique. Seeing it’s like people have consumed these drugs to journey into the Uncharted tunnels of the mind in search of medical and scientific truth, others look behind the curtain just for kicks. We can look back at the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and the research came to a grinding halt when there were these social, cultural, and legal changes of the 60s. So we’re very mindful of the past. People can get into a lot of trouble, so I worried people would look at this research and say, okay, this is safe to use, and it’s not the only way this should be used as a highly regulated, controlled, structured environment. and it’s not just the drug experience; it’s a medication-assisted psychotherapy experience, so preparation the expertise and the integration of what happened to contribute to it is powerful.
Magic Mushrooms for Anxiety
It isn’t just in the molecule itself. I had the medicine this psilocybin on December 9th of, 2013. So yeah, we have three preparatory sessions and form a safe container; the psilocybin is stored in a little black bottle within a 900-pound safe. It’s weighed every day, and two people record it. Everyone holds hands; the patient states their intention, and we take this vessel as a little nod to ritual. They will put it into their mouth and swallow it. When the person feels the effects of the drug, we would ask them to put the eyeshades on and tear you want to put the headphones on and then this is a default position for hours.
Two therapists were sitting here; we checked their blood pressure every half hour. Still, we essentially sit here, and I kind of meditative stance for a long time, and I lay there, and nothing happened. At first, I said, why is this taking so long? And Jeff came over, and he knelt right behind me, and he said, and it’s taking exactly as long as it needs to, you know, and then it seemed like I just took off right after that. It all takes place in one room. The participant is not permitted to leave the room.
They give a hand when they get up and go to the bathroom. So, there’s complete safety physically. They may have experiences of fear or sadness. Most people do have a very emotional experience. That is a part of the healing process, and my face was like it felt like comedy and tragedy in my face. I said to Jeff and drew I said, you know I may look shattered to you know like I, but there was so much feeling, and you’re kind of up there in a very celestial environment, but it wasn’t it for me; it wasn’t visual it was corporal. It wasn’t just confined to my eyes; maybe that’s why you wear a blindfold.
I don’t know, but I just started; they didn’t want me to talk, so I just started, you know, I just started using my hands, you know I want to live a long life, you know. You know I want to live. I don’t want cancer to come back, you know, and in some ways, I think about preparing to be with whatever life throws at me or presents, let’s say, presents, but that doesn’t mean I’m without anxiety. It does not mean facing something that I wouldn’t know I like; it doesn’t mean that I won’t despair, but I think I am better at preparing to face it and better equipped to appreciate the good things.
But, you know, honestly, that’s another thing the medicine is telling me is I’m grateful for my life; you know I’m thankful to be alive. In a way that I didn’t think I could be grateful, much more than getting a lovely scarf or even a fancy car, you know, it’s a kind of gratitude that it’s ineffable.
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Educational Resources for Psychedelics
If you are interested in learning more about Psilocybin and other psychedelics, you can find more information in our educational resources section.
TFG Shroom Recipes Section
For those interested in fun ways to take mushrooms, you can find more information through the link here: TFG's Shroom Cookbook
TFG's Campaign to Raise Awareness of Mental Health Issues
Full article found here: The Stigma of Mental Health Problems