Magic Mushrooms Help In Treating Severe Depression? ‘Mystical And Spiritual’ Experience Includes Long-Term Benefits, Indicates Study

Magic mushrooms could alleviate severe depression, indicated a pilot study. The active substance in the Class 1 drug may be highly-effective in treating mental conditions if used correctly, noted the researchers. Many who participated in the research claimed they were no longer depressed after having a “mystical and spiritual” experience.

Magic mushrooms have helped eliminate severe depression in the majority of the dozen volunteers who participated in a small-scale clinical trial. The active substance in the mushrooms, which is often abused by drug addicts, could help millions of depression-afflicted patients who have tried multiple techniques, but failed to get results.

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Astonishingly, quite a few of the volunteers had their depression sidelined for months at a time. The results have given hope to scientists that magic mushrooms, which were commonplace in cultures as far back as the Aztecs and routinely abused by the hippy counter-culture of the 1970s, could one day become part of mainstream medicine that address one of the most commonly occurring mental conditions.

Researchers had to invest a lot of time, effort, and resources to ensure thorough compliance due to the stringent regulatory restrictions imposed around the class 1 drug. However, after a few years, the researchers discovered that a mere two doses of psilocybin, the active substance in magic mushrooms, was enough to lift signs of depressions in all of the 12 participating volunteers. All of the participants reported they had experienced a good three weeks of depression-free life. Additionally, five of the participants reported they were away from depression for three whole months, reported The Guardian.

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The research was funded by Medical Research Council and published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal. Though the research is backed by reputable institutions, medical experts have expressed reservations about the findings. A few experts pointed out the absence of a placebo. The use of placebo is fairly common in such trials as it helps to cross-verify the claims of the participants and accurately judge the actual efficacy of the product being tested. A lack of placebo substantially obscures the findings. Additionally, the research was conducted with just 12 volunteers.

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Incidentally, the volunteers weren’t normal depression sufferers. While all the participants were patients of depression, nine of the patients had at least severe depression and three were moderately depressed. In one of the patients, symptoms of acute depression were present for the last 30-odd years, reported the BBC. Moreover, each of the participants had sought at least two treatment options, while one patient had tried 11 different techniques to address the signs of depression with little to no results.

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The study was conducted Imperial College London. Patients were initially administered very low doses of psilocybin. The researchers wanted to ensure the drug was safe. Though the dose of the substance was low, it was the equivalent to consumption of “a lot of magic mushrooms.”

As expected, all of the depression patients had a “psychedelic experience” which lasted for about six hours. A majority of the participants experienced a “peak” after the first two hours and claimed to have a “mystical and spiritual” experience. The infusion of the substance was accompanied by classical music and followed by psychological support.

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Most patients immediately experienced a profound dip in their depression and associated symptoms. However, all of them experienced varying levels of side-effects like anxiety, nausea, and headaches. While the results are promising, the research indicates the need of conducting larger trials, noted Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, who conducted the research with his team.

“Seeing an effect size of this magnitude is very promising, they are very large effect sizes in any available treatment for depression. We now need larger trials to understand whether the effects we saw in this study translate into long-term benefits.”

It appears psilocybin targets the receptors in the brain that normally responded to the hormone serotonin. It is common knowledge that serotonin levels in the body deeply affect our moods. By carefully altering the levels of these chemicals, through use of magic mushrooms, researchers hope to one day eliminate signs of depression.

[Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]