As awareness is growing around mental health issues like depression and anxiety, many sufferers of the conditions are keen to determine if there are natural remedies which may prove more effective than medication or therapy.
One such natural substance is psilocybin, a chemical in mushrooms which gives it psychedelic properties. Often associated with having hallucinations and commonly taken recreationally, it might be surprising to know that a number of trials have looked into how the chemical might be effective for overcoming depression.
The Effects of Depression
Depression is a condition which 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. 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 what the causes of depression are.
Depression might be a one off bout, or recurring. In either case, identifying the condition and seeking professional help is 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
- Trouble remembering simple things and trouble concentrating
Whilst it’s normal to go through periods of sadness in life, if negative feelings persist for more than two weeks, it’s important to seek advice before the condition worsens.
There are numerous antidepressants available which 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 counseling, 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 have much more of an appeal as they often grow without being modified, and contain fewer chemicals with harsh side effects when compared to prescribed medication.
Taking Mushrooms For Depression
So where do magic mushrooms come in when it comes to treating depression? To better understand this unusual link, it’s important to look at how shrooms were used in the past.
Evidence points to the use of shrooms in shamanic rituals in North Africa and 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 but for more recreational reasons rather than in rituals. Many users find that taking shrooms opens their mind and frees them of their ego and ‘social’ restraints. In addition to feeling euphoria and a general sense of positivity which comes 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 effectively deal with depression and anxiety, and generally improve their quality of life.
In recent years, trials have taken place to research how magic mushrooms can affect depression sufferers. One such study was conducted by Imperial College London. They found that when they administered two doses of psilocybin to treatment-resistant patients, the patients later reported feeling decreased feelings of depression.
The patients also felt like they had experienced an emotional release during the therapy using psilocybin, as well as 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 actually effects of it 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 stepping stone in opening new doors for trialing 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 the psychoactive agent, which has properties very similar to serotonin, and studies have shown that it has the ability to stimulate one particular serotonin receptor, named 5HT2A . Serotonin affects our whole body, and healthy levels of it 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 which monitored the brain of depression patients after they were given psilocybin, alongside psychological support, also found that there was a reduced blood flow to parts of the brain which deal with emotional processing. The part of the brain which is usually associated with depression showed more stability.
Researchers are quick to point out that while the results look good so far, people suffering with 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 the same results will not be achieved by attempting it at home.
With that being said, there are many users who have found that taking microdosing amounts allows them to live a healthy life whilst overcoming depression. Users feel like it helps them ‘refresh their brain’ and increase feelings of positivity. They might not work for everyone, but for some it could be a fantastic alternative, especially if they are treatment-resistant.
One thing is for certain, there seems to be a lot of positive evidence to show how psilocybin could be a natural, less risky and more efficient way to treat mental health disorders, and hopefully future trials will be able to bring their benefits further to light.
Magic Mushrooms for Depression
The doctor kept describing my cancer as an outlier named small cell carcinoma. 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, in turn, 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. 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 at some point in life will get cancer, and of those that 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 the 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, and it lasted for weeks to months, which is unique. finding 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 and sixties and seventies, and the research came to a grinding halt when all those there were these social, cultural, legal changes of the 60s. so we’re very mindful of the past, and people can get 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 experience 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 yeah, we have three preparatory sessions and form a safe kind of 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 a little bit of a nod to ritual we take this vessel. 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 a default position for hours. two therapists 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 right after that I just took off. it all takes place in one room. The participant is not permitted to leave the room. They give a hand where they get up and go to the bathroom. so, there’s a complete safety physically. They may have experiences of fear of sadness. In fact, 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, and 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 um 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 that I’m without anxiety. It does not mean that faced with something that I wouldn’t say I like; it doesn’t mean that I won’t despair, but I think that I am better at preparing to face it, and I am better equipped to appreciate the good things. you know honestly, that’s another thing the medicine is telling me is I’m grateful for my life, you know I’m grateful to be alive. um in a way that I didn’t know I could be grateful um much more than getting a nice scarf or even a fancy car, you know it’s a kind of gratitude that it’s ineffable.
Educational Resources for Psychedelics
If you are interested in learning more about Psylocybin 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