A new study has shown magic mushrooms can help treat people who suffer from depression.
The study found that the drug psilocybin, which is found in mushrooms, resets the brain’s circuits, helping to ease the symptoms.
Although illegal in the United Kingdom, and labelled as a Class A drug, scientists were given special permission to carry out their experiment, reports the Independent.
19 subjects unable to be helped by traditional medicine or treatment were given psilocybin mushrooms by scientists. When the effects of the mushrooms kicked in the subjects said their mood was immediately lifted, some subjects even said the uplifting effect would last for as long as five weeks.
Brain scans showed the scientists the neural circuits had been reset therefore pushing out their ‘depressive states’.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College of London said:
We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.
Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies.
For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.
Dr Carhart concluded that the drug could be giving the study’s subjects the ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states.
Similar brain patterns have been spotted in patients who have undergone electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a controversial procedure which triggers temporary seizures with electric shocks.
Those who take magic mushrooms purely on a recreational basis have experienced psychedelic hallucination, changes in perception and an altered sense of time.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans discovered a reduced activity in certain parts of the brain after consumption of the drug. This included the amygdala, a small almond-shaped region in the brain known to be involved in processing emotional responses, stress and fear.
Furthermore the mushrooms triggered increased stability in another brain network previously linked to depression.
Despite the success of this study scientists warned those suffering from depression not to attempt this form of medication with psychoactive drugs. One of the reason’s for the successful results is due to the controlled environment the subjects took their dosage in.
They pointed out a special therapeutic setting was provided for the ‘drug experience’ to protect the participants from the drug’s potentially harmful effects.
Dr Carhart’s colleague at Imperial, Professor David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit, stated:
Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients. But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore.
The next step for the team is to test the effects of magic mushrooms against a leading brand of antidepressants in a group of patients.
While the experiment is still in its early days this does help support the argument for the decriminalisation, and legalisation, of so-called ‘soft drugs’ such as mushrooms and cannabis – purely for medicinal purposes of course.