Magic Mushroom Chemical Relieves PTSD, Fear In Mice

Could magic mushrooms treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? That’s the possibility held out by a new study published in the June 2013 journal Experimental Brain Research.

Folks, this is definitely one for the “don’t try this at home” files. The new study, which included work by long-time psilocybin researcher Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos at the University of South Florida, was done on mice. The researchers used not whole mushroom but the chemical psilocybin which is responsible for the hallucinations associated with the drug.

Earlier research has suggested that magic mushrooms or psilocybin can induce artificial mystical experiences that allow people to overcome fear.

A Live Science synopsis of the new magic mushroom PTSD study said that the mice were first traumatized by giving them electric shocks while sounding a loud tone. Over time, just the sound of the tone would be enough to make the mice freeze in terror.

However, mice that were given low doses of psilocybin overcame that stress response much sooner. According to the researchers, they got over their fear more quickly and also experienced a growth in new brain cells.


We are not expected to believe that the mice saw God or had some other mystical experience that allowed them to overcome their trauma. Dr. Sanchez-Ramos acknowledged that mice can’t tell you if they’re seeing visions or not, but he said that the doses he gave were probably too low to cause hallucinations.

Apparently, the drug acted directly on the mouse brains to change their mental state and cause their fears to die out more quickly.

Alternet, an alternative therapy site, said in late June that human patients with severe trauma are already trying magic mushrooms and other hallucinogens in a last-ditch effort to help crippling cases such as “vets with PTSD, the terminally ill who have a terror of death, people with treatment-resistant depression and alcoholics.”

However, it’s hard to move beyond pilot studies because of criminal law that regulates the use of psilocybin. The chemical used in the magic mushroom PTSD study is listed in the United States as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug that has no medical benefits.

[Psilocybe aztecorum mushroom photo by Alan Rockefeller via Wikimedia]