Depression is one of the most important public health problems, and some people struggle to find a treatment that works. In addition to traditional treatment methods, such as therapy and antidepressants, alternative treatments such as magic mushrooms show promise. In fact, early research indicates that magic mushrooms could help with depression, but there are some qualifications that you should be aware of.
Psilocybin is a psychedelic that occurs in Psilocybe Mexicana, which most people refer to as “magic mushroom.” Psilocybin is also present in more than 75 other mushroom species.
After you ingest psilocybin, it spontaneously converts into psilocin. This is the psychoactive agent in the mushrooms, and it is more lipid-soluble. Recent research suggests that the psychoactive effects of psilocin vary based on its stimulation of 5HT2A, a specific serotonin receptor. So far, there have been modest but nonetheless promising clinical trials for using psilocybin to treat depression, anxiety, death anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Other Important Components of Magic Mushrooms
It is also common for various magic mushroom species to contain tryptophan-derived beta-carbolines. These substances include harmine and harmane, and they can have a positive influence on the brain function. Beta-carbolines are an important part of the experience when using magic mushrooms because they inhibit monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that inactivates psilocin. As such, they also influence the effects that you notice when consuming magic mushrooms or psilocybe mushrooms.
How Magic Mushrooms Can Help With Depression
Going back to the 5HT2A receptors of the brain, their potential for treating depression and other mental illnesses is somewhat unexpected. However, there is a clear link.
For example, when the receptors are abnormal in terms of function or structure, this may indicate an underlying presence of drug addiction, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Additionally, the drugs used to treat those conditions block the 5HT2A receptors. As such, there is a clear connection between the receptors and mental health, although not necessarily the one you would expect if magic mushrooms can help.
The other possibility is that the potential benefits of magic mushrooms for depression comes from the beat-carbolines. A recent animal study found that harmane and harmaline have antidepressant effects. As they block monoamine oxidase, they share this common feature with drugs that have been commonly used for major depressive episodes.
Some experts also believe that magic mushrooms help with depression by connecting you with your emotions. By contrast, antidepressants dull emotions, which can sometimes lead to feelings of flatness. Instead, psilocybin increases emotional processing.
Cautions With Beta-carboline
However, beta-carboline is not commonly used for treating depression unless other methods fail due to the “cheese effect.” Essentially, if someone who is taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, such as beta-carboline, consumes tyramine, an amino acid found in cheese, wine, and beer, it can have negative effects. Specifically, the blood pressure can dramatically rise, causing a hypertensive crisis or even stroke or death.
David Nutt’s Research
Although we still need more research on magic mushrooms before we can conclude that they definitely help with depression instead of just having the potential to do so, that research is already underway. David Nutt is a professor and neuro-psycho-pharmacologist at Imperial College London. With his researchers, he is working on human trials that use psilocybin for treating depression.
In the research, volunteers have moderate to severe depression. They receive 25 milligrams of psilocybin, which is a macrodose that leads to a “deep trip” that lasts around four hours. This trip occurs in a controlled setting with two therapists assisting each volunteer. The therapists help with preparation before the trip and making sense of it afterward.
So far, Nutt’s research shows a great deal of promise. In one trial, volunteers experienced long-lasting and rapid improvements in health. Out of the 20 patients in that trial, none needed antidepressants for the five weeks following the tests. Impressively, many symptoms had not returned after six months. However, there is no control group in that particular study.
A quick look online will show you plenty of anecdotal evidence of those with depression who experience relief with magic mushrooms. In most cases, this involves microdoses of magic mushrooms with the occasional full dose.
Cautions When Using Magic Mushrooms for Depression
While magic mushrooms have potential for treating depression, there are still some factors or cautions you need to consider.
Depending on where you live, magic mushrooms may not be legal, even for clinical use. This limits access to the magic mushrooms, and if you were to buy them illegally, there would be no quality controls in place. However, some jurisdictions allow magic mushroom use.
Those who use magic mushrooms to treat depression are likely to find the experience very unsettling. It is possible to experience frightening hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, depersonalization, derealization, and distressing thoughts. Because of these potential effects, you should always try to use mushrooms with the assistance of a trained mental health professional. Otherwise, you may find the experience unsettling, even in the long-term.
Do Not Stop Your Current Treatment
Because the research into magic mushrooms to treat depression is still in its early stages, it is important that you do not stop your current treatment from trying magic mushrooms, at least not without your doctor’s approval.
Research is very much still in its early stages, but it seems that magic mushrooms, specifically the psilocybin they contain, holds potential for treating depression. The best results would be in a controlled environment with therapists close by because trips may bring past experiences related to the depression to emerge.
Since most people with uncontrolled depression do not want to wait for more studies to be completed, there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the potential of magic mushrooms for treating depression. If you live somewhere where they are legal and choose to try this method, make sure that you have at least one person you trust around to keep you calm during the trip and help you after it is over.