New research conducted at Imperial College London suggests feelings of despair and sadness can fade away after eating magic mushrooms. According to scientists, the controversial psychedelic could help patients with severe forms of depression.
Magic mushrooms contain an active ingredient called psilocybin, a potent psychoactive drug found in numerous species of fungi. Occurring naturally, this compound alters the brain’s activity, specifically the region known as the amygdala. When this area is turned on and highly active, we experience fear and anxiety.
In the study, the researchers found psilocybin slowed the amygdala’s activity. After consuming the drug, participants of the study had their brains scanned. The results verified the lower activity in the amygdala. Additionally, patients reported they felt less depressed and happier. Some said they felt as if their brain had been “reset” or “defragged.”
“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy,” said lead author Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, per a report from Medical Xpress.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, involved 20 patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression. They received two doses of psilocybin, 10mg and 25mg, respectively. The second dose was given one week after the first. With the powerful mind-altering nature of psilocybin, the participants consumed the drug in a protected environment in case something went wrong with the experiment.
As reported by the Independent, Professor David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial, considers the test a success and wants to scale up the trial in the near future.
“Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients. But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore.”
While the results of the magic mushroom study sound promising, using psilocybin for an actual treatment for depression may not ever happen. Not only does the drug need to pass clinical trials, but there are also legal issues to overcome.
Like marijuana and heroin, magic mushrooms are classified a Schedule I drug in the U.S., making them illegal to consume. It is far more likely large pharmaceutical companies will get involved and create synthetic versions of the compound. This has a better chance of happening before the U.S. government approves depression treatment with something natural, albeit controversial, like psilocybin.
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