In this article, we’re going to discuss the mental health benefits associated with mushrooms containing psilocybin, psilocin, and several other psychoactive compounds – otherwise known as psychedelic mushrooms.
Believe it or not, psychedelic mushrooms have plenty of benefits outside of giggles and funny hallucinations. While the counterculture of the 1960s led many to believe that hallucinogenics are simply a recreation drug to be used for fun, many studies have shown that psilocybin and other compounds can be effective tools for analyzing and exploring your own mind.
Scientists have found that the psychoactive effects of psilocybin may have a positive effect on all sorts of mental health disorders – from depression and OCD to smoking and alcohol addiction.
Due to its often positive, mood-boosting effects, psilocybin therapy is undergoing groundbreaking research on its potential as a treatment for depression. In early 2019, the FDA gave researchers “breakthrough therapy” designation with regard to psilocybin and depression, which puts it on a fast-track to approval once the proper research is complete. Currently, the Ursona Institute is about to start Phase 2 clinical trials on psilocybin and depression.
Imagine the whirlwind of emotions you’d have if you found out you were terminally ill, with only months left to live. It’s hard to imagine not feeling depressed, anxious, and existentially traumatized. This is one area where psilocybin has shown a unique level of potential.
Dr. Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, has conducted a pilot study on the subject. Based on a small sample of 12 cancer patients with acute stress disorder, the authors of the study showed promising results. Specifically:
“The investigators corroborated previous findings that psilocybin could reliably catalyze mystical experiences leading to significant and lasting improvements in quality of life.”
In a 2016 randomized, double-blind study at Johns Hopkins, a single dose of psilocybin was found to “substantially improve” the quality of life of people with life-threatening cancer, while decreasing their depression and anxiety. While more research needs to be done on psilocybin’s effects, safety, and dosage, these studies do show promising results for the treatment of cancer-related depression.
Psilocybin’s unique ability to take your mind out of its routine and observe a bigger picture has shown potential for helping with addiction, especially with smoking. In a Johns Hopkins University pilot study, 10 out of 15 participants were still abstaining from smoking a year after quitting for the study, and 13 of them considered their psilocybin experiences one of the “5 most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives.”
Smoking isn’t the only dangerous habit that psychedelics helped to curb. An open-label study related to psilocybin and alcohol dependence found that cravings declined and heavy drinkers were more likely to abstain from alcohol several weeks after their first monitored treatment. Even better? No adverse effects were reported for any participants.
Currently, researchers in Alabama are studying the effects of psilocybin therapy on cocaine addiction. The Heffter Institute is also working on research related to psychedelics and addiction. From the successes seen in other areas of addiction, it is likely that psilocybin and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will be a very powerful tool in fighting even the strongest addictions.
A small study out of the University of Arizona observed the behaviors of nine subjects with obsessive-compulsive disorder. After consuming psilocybin, every person showed a “marked decrease” in their OCD-related symptoms, ranging from a 23% reduction to 100% reduction. Improvement was also reported beyond the 24-hour observation period, suggesting that a single dose could be just enough to improve quality of life for a much longer period that most treatments offer.
As you can see, the research on the health benefits of mushrooms and psilocybin is overwhelmingly positive and hugely promising. Although more research needs to be done to truly understand psychedelic mushrooms as therapy, the FDA fast-track suggests it could be only a matter of time before psilocybin is a regular part of the healthcare conversation and a common treatment for a number of mental conditions.
For more information on how exactly psilocybin works and its psychedelic effects, check out our effects page for a full breakdown of the experience!