Published: Sun, October 15, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

The Hallucinogens in Magic Mushrooms Might Ease Depression Symptoms

The Hallucinogens in Magic Mushrooms Might Ease Depression Symptoms

These powerful hallucinogens have been fuelling Amsterdam's drug tourism for years - but could they now be used to treat depression?

In a recent trial, Imperial researchers gave 20 test subjects with treatment-resistant depression two doses of psilocybin, which is the psychoactive compound that occurs in magic mushrooms.

For many people who are seriously depressed, they don't so much want to "get happy" as they just want their brains to return to a normal, neutral state.

"Several of our patients described feeling "reset" after the treatment".

'For example, one said he felt like his brain had been "defragged" like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt "rebooted"'. So-called magic mushrooms might do the trick, according to a new report. "Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary kick start they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a reset analogy", Carhart-Harris added.

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The scans reveal significant reductions in cerebral blood flow to the temporal cortex specifically in the amygdala, an effect that researchers correlate to decreased depressive symptoms. Therefore, researchers have made a decision to see if these hallucinogens are really that good, so they started analyzing the effect of psilocybin on the brain.

Both chemicals are classified as illegal Class A drugs in the United Kingdom, as are the mushrooms themselves.

The researchers who conducted the study found the difference in the brain scans of the people, and the findings has raised hopes for a future treatment. Other brain networks, those linked to the depression-relieving qualities of psilocybin in past studies, became more stable. The scientists also warn that the research is still in its early stages, and that people suffering from depression shouldn't attempt to self-medicate with mushrooms. Participants of the study felt as though their brains were "reset" after the treatments.

The authors note that while the initial results of the experimental therapy are exciting, they are limited by the small sample size as well as the absence of a control group - such as a placebo group - to directly contrast with the patients. Further, larger studies are still needed before psilocybin could be accepted as a treatment for depression.

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