*Disclaimer* The following article should not be interpreted as medical diagnosis or treatment advice. If you’re concerned about depression or mental illness, contact your general physician or psychiatrist.
A recently published study suggested that eating the controversial magic mushroom (or any with the active psilocybin psychedelic compound) to treat depression is a possible solution that could help millions of people suffering from the said mental disorder.
For many years, researchers continuously searched for a more effective cure for depression. This time, a study published in Nature by a group of researchers from the Imperial College London (ICL) suggest that taking magic mushroom to treat depression could be the key!
Check out our coverage of Psychonauts, the VR gamers and developers that use psychedelics in virtual reality here.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts.
Fortunately, this disease is treatable.
If left untreated, people suffering from this depressive disorder could derail their careers, their hobbies, and even their personal relationships.
People with depression often find it difficult to make decisions and concentrate. In worst case scenarios, depression can become life-threatening and may trigger harmful acts like suicide.
Depression chooses no age, gender, or status in life. Anyone can suffer from it, even celebrities and politicians. In fact, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States was reported to have suffered from ‘melancholy,’ a condition commonly known today as clinical depression. He was even said to have published a suicide poem in the Sangamo Journal on August 25th, 1838, according to Illinois legislator Joshua Speed.
Fast forward to the present, a fact sheet released by the World Health Organization (WHO) early this year cited that depression affects over 300 million people worldwide.#MagicMushroom could potential help cure #Depression according to new study!Click To Tweet
Every year, nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide caused by depression. This figure made the mental disorder the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds.
Apparently, the news of using the magic mushroom to treat depression could provide renewed hope to families and people battling the disorder.
Magic Mushroom to Treat Depression: How?
The team of researchers, led by first author Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of Psychedelic Research at ICL, gave each of the 19 patients diagnosed with depression a single dosage of psilocybin and monitored their brain activity before and after.
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic pro-drug found in over 200 species of mushroom including what was referred to as the magic mushroom or psilocybin mushroom. As a pro-drug, psilocybin is converted by the body to psilocin which causes mind-altering effects such as euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, perception changes, distorted sense of time, and many more.
It appears that the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms could help treat depression by ‘resetting’ the brain. The researchers reported that the “treatment produced rapid and sustained antidepressant effects.” 50 percent of the group who took part in the study described an ‘afterglow’ effect that they said lasted up to five weeks.
Many of the patients even described the treatment to like having their brains ‘rebooted’ or ‘reset.’ In a story published by the Independent, Carhart-Harris was quoted as saying:
“We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments. Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive …”
Scans of the participants’ brains before and after the drug was administered showed two critical areas of the brain being impacted by the treatment: the amygdala and the default mode network.
Amygdala (corpus amygdaloideum) is involved in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. On the other hand, default mode network (DMN) is a network of interacting brain regions known to have activity highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks in the brain.
The study showed that the amygdala, which is responsible for triggering emotions associated with fear and anxiety, has become less active and that DMN has become more stabilized.
“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. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy,” Carhart-Harris went on to say.
While using the magic mushroom to treat depression can be considered as a breakthrough in the fields of psychiatric medicine, the ICL researchers acknowledged that the results of their study were limited by the small number of subjects who participated and the lack of a control group.
However, they still view the study as a promising start to find better means of helping people suffering from depression. Next year, the team is planning to start a new round of trial to expand their understanding of the role the drug plays in relieving symptoms of depression and also, to compare the effectiveness of psilocybin against a popular antidepressant which they didn’t name.