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Can Magic Mushrooms Help With Depression?

Small psilocybe magic mushroom growing in a mossy woodland  

Throughout the years, many teenagers have heard about the effects of magic mushrooms based on the hallucinogenic “trip” rather than its effects as medicine. In some cases, hallucinogenic drugs, like magic mushrooms, and mental illness can affect one another. Namely,  if an individual has an underlying mental health condition, taking magic mushrooms may be detrimental and can actually exacerbate negative symptoms associated with these conditions. However, recent studies have examined the ability of magic mushrooms to treat depression — with quite positive outcomes.

As more research is conducted on the practical utility of magic mushrooms in the treatment of disease, teens should avoid experimenting with hallucinogens.

What Are Magic Mushrooms?

Magic mushrooms come from a class of wild mushrooms known as the psilocybes for the chemical psilocybin that they contain. Different psilocybe mushrooms have notable effects. Some of these effects are positive, including feeling connected to nature, other people and animals. Some individuals report seeing more beautiful and vibrant colors all around them. Conversely, mushrooms can cause panic, feelings of discomfort, stomach issues, and hallucinations. A person’s mental state before they take mushrooms can affect whether their trip is positive or negative. However, there is no definitive way to know ahead of time how the trip will be. For some individuals, their experience, while under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms, stays with them for a lifetime — for better or for worse.

Magic Mushrooms and Depression

Because some individuals have such profound experiences from taking mushrooms, a small number of researchers have begun testing the impact of magic mushrooms on depression. Several studies found that psilocybin has the potential for treating depression. Nevertheless, many studies do not have proper controls, like an inactive placebo drug that is given to participants or an active control that works in a similar way to magic mushrooms. Without these measures in place, it is difficult to determine if psilocybin treats depression.

It is also important to note that there are many tried-and-true medications for teenage anxiety and depression. Unlike psilocybin, these medications have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their safety and efficacy for treating mental health conditions. In other words, these medications have gone through clinical trials against placebos or current standards of care. Only time will tell if psilocybin passes both safety and efficacy measures for the treatment of depression.

Potential Benefits of Magic Mushrooms in Treating Depression

With that said, of the research that exists, there does appear to be potential benefits of magic mushrooms. Some recent findings from psilocybin research include:

  • A study at Johns Hopkins University found that individuals who took higher doses of psilocybin felt more positive effects compared to individuals who took lower psilocybin doses
  • A study conducted in the UK found that the brain scans of individuals before and after they took psilocybin were different. Of the 19 participants, all said they felt relief from their treatment-resistant depression one-week after psilocybin administration and nearly half of these participants still felt the positive effects of psilocybin five weeks later.

Even though there are caveats with each of these studies, it is possible that psilocybin will turn out to be a natural antidepressant for teens and adults. One of the studies recommended that in addition to treating patients with psilocybin, they must receive spiritual or therapeutic support, without which the authors of the study would not recommend psilocybin use.

In recent years, the benefits of microdosing mushrooms have gained mainstream media attention. Microdosing is ingesting small quantities of psychedelic drugs so that individuals do not go on a “trip” or get high but still benefit psychologically. One study found that a majority of participants reported feeling less depressed on days when they ingested psilocybin as well as decreased stress, depression and distractibility after taking the drug.

Psychedelic Mushrooms Dependence and Addiction

As it stands, magic mushrooms are a common drug used by teens. Like any drug that affects brain chemistry, there is the potential for magic mushrooms to become addictive, but that is unlikely. Teen drug addiction is a treatable condition, just like anxiety and depression. Currently, there is not enough research to suggest that psilocybin helps treat depression or can help teens with depression any more than FDA-approved drugs already on the market. Furthermore, more specific dosing regimens need to be developed to warrant the use of mushrooms as an actual therapeutic.

Does your teen struggle with drug addiction? Contact Next Generation Village to discuss treatment options for drug addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions that your teen may have.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Sources

  • Barnby, Joseph; Mehta, Mitul. “Psilocybin and Mental Health–Don't Lose Control.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, July 3, 2018. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6038671/
  • Carhart-Harris, R.; et al. “Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms.” Scientific Reports, October 2017. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29030624/
  • Griffiths, R.; et al. “Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors.” J Psychopharmacol., January 2018. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29020861/
  • Polito, V.; Stevenson, R. “A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics.” PLoS One, February 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30726251

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