New Mushroom Study: Psilocybin Lifts Severe Depression
If science has shown us anything, it is that depression is a complicated and hard to treat condition. The combination of chemical imbalance, stress and environmental factors means it is not simply a case of needing to cheer up. It is so hard to get a medical grasp on, many pharmaceutical companies are moving out of the field, abandoning research trying to find a better way to treat it – happy to just keep supplying the current batch of antidepressants that don’t quite hit the mark. Not everyone has given up hope, though, as a group of scientists find magic mushrooms to be highly effective at beating back the burden of this ailment in clinical trials.
The notion that psilocybin, the active compound of magic mushrooms, may help treat depression is not overly new. However, all research to date has been groundwork, with very few, if any, clinical trials being conducted. It makes this new research a huge step forward for the field and makes psilocybin as a mainstream medicine all the more likely.
Published in The Lancet, a journal dedicated to psychiatric study, the research outlined how 12 people suffering severe depression were given two doses of psilocybin each. Each participant had previously proven resilient to at least two forms of pharmaceutical antidepressants. It was found that all participants were completely relieved of the symptoms of depression for at least 3 weeks, with five keeping it at bay for 3 months.
It is worth noting that a sample size of 12 is not exactly representative, nor where they compared to any kind of control group using a placebo. However, the fact that they have had a 100% success rate in a clinical setting proves grounds for larger, more comprehensive clinical trials. Other than with the experimentation of other psychedelics, research into depression has not had such a positive result in years.
WHY DOES IT WORK?
The reason mushrooms may be able to help people with depression is largely due to the way it distances us from the self. The ego tends to be left behind, giving us a completely new perspective on ourselves and the world around us. For someone with depression, in a safe and therapeutic setting, this can allow them to work through issues.
Kirk Rutter, one of the participants, had his depression triggered by the death of his mother, which he was struggling to deal with. Understandably, he was nervous about the situation, but found the therapeutic setting to ease his anxiety.
“Both times I experienced something called ‘psychedelic turbulence’. This is the transition period to the psychedelic state, and caused me to feel cold and anxious,” the 45-year-old said. “However this soon passed, and I had a mostly pleasant – and sometimes beautiful – experience.”
“There were certainly some challenging moments during the sessions, for instance when I experienced being in hospital with my mother when she was very ill. And during the high-dose session, I visualised my grief as an ulcer that I was preventing from healing so that I could stay connected to my mother. However, by going through memories, and feeling the love in our relationship, I saw that letting go of the grief was not letting go of her memory.”
This is not to suggest that magic mushrooms are some miracle cure. Exactly how they allow someone to do this on a scientific level is still being investigated, and a controlled and therapeutic setting is essential.
However, this research shows us that psilocybin has real potential to be a useful and mainstream medicine of the future. More research needs to be done, but the way things are going, it is all looking very positive.
Written by: Josh
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