New research finds that the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms could be effective in treating depression. Participants of the study felt as though their brains were "reset" after the treatments.
Psilocybin In Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin is the naturally occurring psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms which are often used as classic psychoactive drugs. It has previously been used medicinally, and evidence suggests its usefulness in treating psychiatric conditions such as depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. When combined with a supportive environment and integrative psychological care, the use of psilocybin helps in inducing emotional breakthroughs.
Researchers from Imperial College London conducted a study that provided evidence for the effectiveness of psilocybin in treating depression. To find out exactly what brain mechanisms are involved in garnering such positive effects, researchers focused on a small group of 19 participants, all of whom experienced treatment-resistant depression.
The participants were each given two doses of psilocybin at 10 mg and 25 mg respectively, with the second dose being given a week after the first. They then completed clinical questionnaires to describe how they were feeling.
Resetting The Brain
All the patients exhibited lesser depressive symptoms and interestingly, researchers noticed that a number of participants used computer analogies to describe how they felt, using words such as "reset," "reboot," and "defrag." Researchers also performed fMRI scans on the participants' brains before and after the treatment and found evidence of immediate and sustained antidepressant effects.
The scans reveal significant reductions in cerebral blood flow to the temporal cortex specifically in the amygdala, an effect that researchers correlate to decreased depressive symptoms.
"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," said Dr. Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial College London and coauthor of the study.
It's worth noting that the current research is a preliminary one that involved a fairly small number of participants. As such, it's not yet safe to categorically state that psilocybin treats depression. The research, however, shows promise in looking into the use of psilocybin in developing psychiatric therapy especially among treatment-resistant depressive individuals.
Because of the promising results, researchers are looking into conducting a comparative trial in which they will compare the effects of psilocybin against other antidepressants.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.