Using ‘magic mushrooms’ to treat depression

Using ‘magic mushrooms’ to treat depression

A psychoactive compound found in mushrooms might reset the brains of people diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. So says a team of researchers from Imperial College London.

Researchers measured the effects of psilocybin (sill-o-SY-bin), a naturally occurring compound in psychedelic, or so-called “magic” mushrooms, on patients whose depression failed to respond to conventional treatment. Brain scans taken before and one day after consumption of the psilocybin showed noticeable changes in brain activity linked to a reduction of symptoms of depression. The participants also reported an afterglow effect of improved mood and stress relief.

The results lasted up to five weeks post-treatment.

The team believes psilocybin may have given the study participants the temporary kick-start they needed to break out of their depressive states. The initial findings and imaging results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, tend to support the reset analogy the participants used.

While a number of clinical trials on the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics in patients with conditions such as depression and addiction have yielded promising results, the researchers cautioned against unsupervised consumption of psychedelic compounds or other attempts to self-medicate. The current research project involved people who took the drug in a very tightly controlled environment.

The next step is to conduct more studies to gauge whether the positive effects of the drug can be reproduced in more participants, the researchers said. They expect future, more robust studies or a clinical trial to compare psilocybin and a leading antidepressant medication.

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