Published on January 24th, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
‘Magic Mushrooms’ Show Promise as Depression Treatment
First ecstasy is demonstrated to possibly be an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and now another drug mainly associated with recreational use has been indicated as a potential treatment for mental illness- this time with depression as the subject of the study.
Mushrooms- the hallucinogenic or psychedelic sort mainly associated with people who dance to Phish and smell like patchouli and Otto’s jacket- contain an ingredient called psilocybin, which was used in research into depression treatments published in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One study included 30 individuals, the second, 10 participants. And the second found that administration of psilocybin improved memory recall as well as the emotional well-being of patients for up to two weeks following a single treatment.
The research joins some done last year, with an outcome indicating that even after one treatment with psilocybin, participants reported improved emotional wellness six months following the treatment. David Nutt of Imperial College London was the senior author on both new studies, and Nutt commented:
“Psychedelics are thought of as ‘mind-expanding’ drugs, so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity, but surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas. These hubs constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly. We now know that deactivating these regions leads to a state in which the world is experienced as strange.”
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is first author on both new studies, and he elaborated:
“Psilocybin was used extensively in psychotherapy in the 1950s, but the biological rationale for its use has not been properly investigated until now. Our findings support the idea that psilocybin facilitates access to personal memories and emotions… Previous studies have suggested that psilocybin can improve people’s sense of emotional well-being and even reduce depression in people with anxiety. This is consistent with our finding that psilocybin decreases mPFC activity, as many effective depression treatments do. The effects need to be investigated further and ours was only a small study, but we are interested in exploring psilocybin’s potential as a therapeutic tool.”
In addition to helping with depression, it has been anecdotally reported that psilocybin has had positive effects for headache sufferers.