Research Shows Magic Mushrooms Can Treat Depression

Eating magic mushrooms can help treat depression, a challenging and often chronic condition that can be very difficult to treat, finds a new study. Psilocybin, the drug found in magic mushrooms, can “reset” the brain’s circuits known to trigger depression, and help ease symptoms, the study explains.

Magic mushrooms, also known as Psilocybin mushrooms and psychedelic mushrooms, are the psychotropic fungi containing the psychoactive compounds psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin.

In the current study, researchers from Imperial College London have suggested the therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms. According to them, psilocybin can be used to treat depression patients who are unresponsive to conventional treatments. The drug has the potential to re-set the activity of depression inducing neural circuits to immediately improve moods.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, the lead author of the study and head of psychedelic research at Imperial, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.

“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.”

To reach their findings, the researchers tested the drug psilocybin on 19 patients with treatment-resistant depression. They were given two doses of psilocybin – a 10mg and 25mg- seven days apart.

The patients reported an immediate reduction in depressive symptoms, and some reported to experience an ‘after-glow’ effect characterised by improvements in mood and stress relief that lasted up to five weeks.

Further examining their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the researchers observed reduced activity in certain regions of the brain after taking the drug. They noticed changes in the amygdala, a small almond-shaped part of the brain that is known to play a role in processing emotional responses, stress and fear. They also found that the neurons in another brain network, previously linked to depression, had been reset.

“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.

Despite their impressive findings, the researchers warned that depressed people should not try to self-medicate with psychoactive drugs.

The research was supported by the Medical Research Council, the Alex Mosley Charitable Trust and the Safra Foundation and published in the journal Scientific Reports.