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Magic Mushrooms A Cure For Depression?

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When we think of magic mushrooms we imagine peace loving hippies dancing around a brightly lit campfire, some perhaps naked with their long, shaggy hair covering their infrequently washed bodies.  The 1960’s saw the birth of psychedelia, which was a sub culture that encouraged the use of magic mushrooms. Some people took the drug to have a spiritual experience, or to enhance their other senses.  Users reported tasting colours, seeing noises or feeling smells. Dr. Timothy Leary a psychologist who has taken magic mushrooms, worked on the Harvard Psilocybin Project in Harvard University.  He thought that psilocybin, which is the ingredient in magic mushrooms, had the ability to improve people’s brains.  Now fifty years later, scientists are starting to think that this could be true.

A new study by British scientists has found that the ingredient psilocybin, can help to relieve the symptoms of treatment resistant depression.  Treatment resistant means that the person hasn’t become better from medication or cognitive behavioural therapy.  The trial involved 12 people, (six men and six women) who had treatment resistant depression to take two doses of psilocybin capsules, a week apart. They gave them fMRI brain scans and asked them questions regarding their depression. Their heart rate, blood pressure and any effects of the drug were observed.  The patients’ psychiatrists reviewed them the following day and one, two, three and five weeks after the second dose.

After the first week, all 12 participants noticed that they felt less depressed and 66 percent of them had no depressive symptoms.  Three months later, 58 percent had improved, five had relapsed and five had remained well.  Robin Carhart-Harris who led the study at the Imperial College London’s department of medicine said “What these data show is that this is doable, and seems to be well tolerated.”  “The efficacy of the treatment is impressive.” “But we shouldn’t get carried away with these results”. “This isn’t a magic bullet.” He added that this research only involved a very small number of participants, and it might not have the same effect on the wider population of people suffering from depression. He said “We’re just learning how to do this treatment. He added “Psychedelic drugs have potent psychological effects and are only given in our research when appropriate safeguards are in place”. “I wouldn’t want members of the public thinking they can treat their own depression by picking their own magic mushrooms. That kind of approach could be risky.”

When psilocybin is consumed it enables new connections between neurons to be formed in the brain. These neurons allow the person to perceive their thoughts in a different way.  In a 2011 study which was led by Dr Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioural and neuroscience, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the U.S, reported that psilocybin was found to have a positive effect on cancer patients who were suffering from depression and anxiety.  The researchers administered a single dose of psilocybin to 51 people who had advanced cancer and were feeling depressed and anxious.

Some of the patients were given a very low dose; and others were given a higher dose.  The people who had been given the high dose noticed significant changes to their senses, and they had spiritual experiences and changeable moods on days when they received the drug.  After five weeks, the participants who had been given the higher dose felt less anxious and depressed compared to the patients who had received the lower dose of psilocybin.  Six months later, they were depression and
anxiety free.

Philip Cowen, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Oxford, said that although there have been positive results with this study, it is important to note that scientists must prove that psilocybin helps to relieve depression in an exclusive way to other antidepressants.  Carhart-Harris states that according to brain scan studies that this is the case.  He says “Psychedelic by definition means mind revealing, so what psychedelics like psilocybin offer are a way to reveal things that may be difficult to see that might be contributing to depression, things that have happened in the past, relationships and other issues we tend to put in the back of our minds and avoid but can compound depression.”

Depression can feel like a grey cloud is hanging over you, weighing you down until you collapse by the sheer exhaustion of it.  That dark grieving feeling can consume your whole being and your every waking moment.  However, now there are a wide variety of treatments available, and it is important to try them to see what works best for you.  Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven to be very effective for helping depression.  If you don’t want to go down the therapy route, then it is advisable to talk to a close friend or family member about how you are feeling.

As well as medication, therapy or both, healthy lifestyle changes can help you to maintain a more positive mood.

Lifestyle changes

Exercise is vital for relieving depression.  It boosts your serotonin and endorphin levels which help to increase your mood.  Even walking briskly for 30 minutes a day can make an improvement to your mood.

Sleep is very important to help your mood.  When you don’t sleep you can feel irritable, low and very tired.  Try and go to bed and get up at the same time every day to help to regulate your body clock.

Nutrition is essential for your mental health.  If you don’t have the right nutrients your brain can’t function properly.  It is important to eat foods containing omega 3, such as fish, nuts or seeds.  B vitamins and vitamin D are also effective for increasing your mood. Try and avoid sugar and alcohol as it can affect your blood sugar levels which can cause mood swings.

Socialising can help you take your mind off yourself.  Even though you don’t want to be around people it is important that you try and socialise because if you isolate yourself you can go further into the depression.

Meditation will help to relax your mind.  Guided meditation is particularly useful for relieving tension.

Remember that the depression won’t last forever and you will come out the other side of it, be patient and go with it.  Try not to fight your feelings, they can’t hurt you, they are just emotions.  Depression is often, (although not always) caused by suppressed emotions and by talking about past hurts, you can release those painful emotions and be free to enjoy your life again.

One Response

  1. Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness! Mushrooms are really indeed a magical fungus. As studies progress, it unfolds a lot of possible uses and applications in science and medicine. I hope this could be the future treatment of a lot of diseases. It has endless capabilities!

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