Magic mushrooms have been around for thousands of years, playing an important role in religious customs among Central American indigenous communities such as the Aztecs of Mexico. And now research on the psychological benefits that this medicinal fungus has to offer is intensifying, driven by the need to find a lasting solution to the mental health and addiction problems that bedevil our society.
Use of Magic Mushrooms to Treat Depression
One of the more interesting findings by researchers has been the magic mushrooms’ potential to treat depression. Several studies have been done as follows:
- In 2015, psilocybin was used to treat alcoholism and the results of were published in a proof-of-concept study circulated in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
- In 2016, a publication in the Lancet Psychiatry revealed how patients suffering from moderate to mild depression showed “markedly reduced depressive symptoms” after being treated with psilocybin.
- In another study at the Imperial College London, 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression were given psilocybin. The patients had their brains scanned before and after a high dose treatment using MRI imaging. The images revealed reduced blood flow in the amygdala, the part of the brain that handles emotional responses, stress, and fear. The amygdala is usually overactive in patients who suffer from depression and anxiety.
- A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins were also able to prove that psilocybin could treat depressed mood and anxiety among 51 terminally ill patients. The patients experienced significant relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin, and after being interviewed said they felt the experience had increased the quality of life, and made them more optimistic.
What the Studies Teach Us
One thing that came out in the Imperial College London study is that patients who’ve received a dose of psilocybin undergo a resetting of the brain. This means that the connections between different parts of their brain loosen up and then reintegrate after going through the psychedelic trip. This could be used to explain why the patients are able to overcome compulsive behavior and rethink deep-rooted beliefs associated with depression.
Psilocybin works differently than antidepressants
This is starkly different to antidepressants which act by dulling our emotions to help us cope with depression. Psilocybin by contrast enhances our sensory perception by complementing our serotonin system – the system that sends signals between nerve cells. It broadens the communication pathways in our brains and enhances our emotional responses encouraging patients to face their depression head-on.
At any rate, the more conventional methods of treating depression, such as antidepressants and behavioral therapy can take weeks or even months before any positive results are seen and aren’t always effective. Besides, certain drugs used to treat depression, such as benzodiazepines, can actually be addictive.
Mushrooms increase your productivity
Magic mushrooms don’t just fight depression. Both lab-based research and anecdotes from users show that psilocybin mushrooms sharpen your focus, boost your productivity and enable you to connect better with others.
Research conducted by cognitive scientist Vince Polito, sought to find out what the experiences of 98 microdosers was like. The study noted changes in the participants’ behavior including decreased mind-wandering, lower levels of stress and depression. The study concludes that “microdosing may lead to more subtle changes characterised by improvements in mental stability, the capacity to sustain attention and increased ability to become engaged in intense imaginative experiences.”
Magic mushrooms free you spiritually
In another study by Johns Hopkins psychologists 36 healthy volunteers were given psilocybin to see how it would affect them spiritually. The study included a control group among the participants who received a placebo. After a couple of months these were the outcomes:
- Almost 80% of the participants reported “moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction” compared with those who received a placebo during the same therapy session.
- Most of them said their “mood, attitudes and behaviors had changed for the better,” a feeling that was acknowledged by family members, friends and co-workers.
- One third of the subjects in the study said the experience was the “single most spiritually significant of their lifetimes”, while more than two-thirds ranked it among the top five most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences.
Suffice it to say the evidence that magic mushrooms have a holistic benefit on your mental wellness are overwhelming. Unfortunately the illegal status of magic mushrooms means many people will not be able to access these obvious benefits in the short term.
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