Study: Magic Mushrooms Could Reduce Fear And Anxiety
Fear and anxiety are unavoidable; they are an ever present weight that has been bolted onto life. They are a survival response, aimed at helping us avoid dangerous situations. Life without them probably wouldn’t be very good for the longevity of our species. Yet, these emotions, and the physiological effects they have weigh heavier on some than others. They can be the cause, and symptoms of things like depression and PTSD. Beating fear and anxiety, or at least reducing them for people who they cripple, has become a long term goal of science.
There are various fields that have been researched, and progress has been made. Recently, science has started looking for the answer in the field of psychedelics, and the results have been promising. What has scientists very interested is that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound of magic mushrooms have the potential to dampen, and even erase it.
BEATING FEAR WITH MUSHROOMS
A great example of research into this field found that it was able to prevent fear in mice. In the experiment, two groups of mice would hear a sound, followed by receiving a painful electric shock. As a result, all mice involved began to associate the sound with the impending shock, and became fearful when they heard it. One group was then given psilocybin. It was found that the psilocybin group lost their fear of the sound much quicker than the normal group. "They stopped freezing; they lost their fear,” wrote Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, co-author of the paper.
It is hypothesised that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with processing negative emotion, decreased in activity. As such, fear and anxiety become less of an issue in the long run.
Not only this, but it was also found that the psilocybin may also have caused neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells – particularly in the hippocampus, which is largely thought to be responsible for memory and learning. The potential implication of this, and the theoretical frame work it has set up is staggering! It could one day offer people who suffer from depression, PTSD, and social anxiety a way to calm their negative thought patterns.
PUTTING THE KNOWLEDGE TO USE
Whilst the research remains theoretical, some people are taking it upon themselves to put theory into practice, if only anecdotally. This change in the way negative thought is processed is already changing lives. It has helped some people, who have been diagnosed with terminal illness, come to terms with their situation. Nothing induces fear and anxiety than being told you only have a certain amount of time to live; but the way mushrooms alter the brain to cope allow many to live their last days with a sense of peace and understanding, even after the high has worn off.
It is likely to be the case that this explanation is over simplifying things. The way magic mushrooms interact with the brain is complex, and the spirituality and oneness can be hard to describe scientifically. There is a good chance, that even understanding the way the amygdala is changed probably doesn’t fully explain the effect the spiritual nature of the high has on helping someone come to terms with the nature of their situation.
What we can say for sure is that research looks promising, and although it is not valid when it comes to science and policy, there is a lot of anecdotal reports to back it up. As long as psychedelic research continues to be funded and explored, the future of psychedelic based medicine looks bright.