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Could Magic Mushrooms Be A Remedy For Treating Depression and Anxiety?

New research on fungi shows that small dosage of psilocybin chemical found in certain mushroom plants can have beneficial psychiatric effects.

Timothy Leary of Harvard University passionately promoted psilocybin mushrooms also called magic mushrooms in the 60s and 70s as having psychiatry benefits. For a moment, it seems as if mushrooms controlled experiments and other psychedelics will become scientific mainstream, but the backlash against drug culture in the 1960s and the arrest of Leary himself changed the trend. Leary was arrested for being in possession of drugs and that made continued magic mushroom research almost impossible. In the 1960s magic mushrooms was criminalized by the federal government and that grounded research for about 30years.

Recently, the revised is the case; new research about chemical psilocybin especially as a hallucinogenic ingredient in magic mushrooms is being reported. There are indications that low controlled dosage can be used to treat patients with anxiety and depression.

A published report by Experimental Brain Research group showed that mice given a certain dose of purified psilocybin had reduced signs of fear. Mice were influenced to associate certain sound when played to electrical shock, at a time all the mice will freeze in fear once the sound is played even when the electrical shocking device is not on. The set of mice that were given psilocybin at a low dose stopped freezing before the other mice could stop, indicating that the negative experience of pain could easily be separated from the sound stimuli.

Since one cannot ask the mice for the exact reason why they felt less afraid, a handful of other research are needed to validate psilocybin effect, and such studies were done on subjects that can communicate their feeling like the humans.  

In the Archives of General Psychiatry of 2011 published study, UCLA researchers, plus a couple of others reported that low dosage of psilocybin boost up the moods of 12 patients within 36 -58 years old in their late-stage cancer condition and reduced anxiety level for a lengthy period. Conventional medications could not alleviate these patients depression, but when given low dose of placebo or pure psilocybin were given to them, those patients given pure psilocybin were observed to have lowered level of anxiety and depression. A decrease in depression level began two weeks and lasted for six months of the study, while reduced anxiety levels at first and third months after.  Additionally, patients were cautiously administering psilocybin at a low dose and also have their environment controlled to avoid negative experience while under the psilocybin influence colloquially (“bad trip”).   

Johns Hopkins research group had longest running controlled studies of psilocybin effects. Their research findings is viewed to be the most

Johns Hopkins recorded the longest-running research has conducted under controlled study, on the effects of psilocybin, and their findings show the most potentials of all psilocybin research. In 2006, 36 healthy volunteers (that had never taken hallucinogens), were given a certain dose of psilocybin. 60 percent of them were reported to experience the mystical feeling.  14 months after, many of them reported that they are feeling increased level of general well-being than usual. Volunteers in this class rated the psilocybin intake experience as one in the top five significant personal experiences ever.

In 2011, Johns Hopkins research group conducted another study involving a new set of people and waited one year later before research questioning commenced. According to the findings from the researcher’s personality tests, the volunteer’s openness response to fresh or new ideas increased significantly.  This kind of change is rarely seen in adults.

Research is still ongoing by scientists on how the intake of psilocybin can influence adult uses of their minds is still at the beginning stage and the general effect of psilocybin. For now, it is a known fact that immediately after the intake of psilocybin (either in its pure form or taken via eating of magic mushrooms), it is broken into psilocin that can stimulate the receptors in the brain for serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps promote positive feelings. It is the same Serotonin that is included the common anti-depressant drugs.

In 2012, the imaging of an infant’s brain after intake of psilocybin was done. The volunteer was given a particular dose of psilocybin while undergoing fMRI (functional- Magnetic Resonance Imaging). fMRI machine is used to measures the functional blood flow in and out of the brain. The response of the study indicates that there was a decrease in activity in certain brain areas; at the posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex. These areas are the densely concentrated parts of the brain; they help order humans world experiences and feelings, according to a neurobiologist author called David Butt of Imperial College London.

When these dense areas are deactivated or altered, such a person will begin to have strange experiences about the world or environment around. Therefore how psilocybin could ease anxiety and depression unclear. It may be that the consequences of psilocybin intake are unrelated to what the scan showed and the beneficial effects.

Despite that, researchers are still looking for psilocybin potential applications and that of other hallucinogens, to clearly understand what really happens. According to recently wired profile, about 1,600 scientists that were present at the 3rd annual Psychedelic-science meeting, many of them are carrying out research on drugs like psilocybin, MDMA (also known as “ecstay”) and LSD (acid).

Apparently, the setback to using magic mushrooms or pure psilocybin medications is the government rules on it. Currently, in the USA, such medications are classed as controlled substance in Schedule I grades. This means that it is illegal to have them in your possessions. Doctors do not even have the right just to buy, sell or prescribe them for use to anyone. Researchers or scientists cannot have such substance in their possession since it’s illegal and has no accepted use in medicine.  

So far, research that involved the use of psilocybin or any schedule I substance were done under strict supervision by the government, and getting government approval for new research is notoriously and extremely difficult. However, certain research gets approval; this is enough sign that there are gradual changes to research in that line. The acceptance of marijuana for medical use in many states, which was once far-fetched at a time, suggests the possibility of accepting the use of psilocybin or magic mushroom for medical purposes in the near future.  


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