Feeling depressed? Psychedelic mushrooms might be able to fix that, study finds

Could magic mushrooms be the answer to depression?
Could magic mushrooms be the answer to depression? Creative commons

If you’re feeling depressed, it turns out psychedelic mushrooms might be able to fix that.

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that ingesting small doses of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug that naturally occurs in so-called “magic mushrooms,” can actually “reset” the mind of a depressed person.

Researchers gave 19 patients, who were diagnosed with depression that did not respond well to conventional treatment, two doses of the psychoactive drug.

The patients were first given 10 mg of psilocybin, and then 25 mg of the drug a week later.

And the findings offer hope for those with persistent depression: All 19 patients experienced “decreased depressive symptoms” one week after the second dose of the mushrooms.

Forty-seven percent of patients reported decreased depression and a more relaxed mood five weeks after the treatment.

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of psychedelic research at the Imperial College London who led the study, said it is the first time psilocybin has been shown to produce “clear changes in brain activity in depressed people.”

He likened the effect of the mushrooms on patients to rebooting a computer — saying it was a “kick start” out of depression.

“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies,” he said. “For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted.’ ”

The scientists also used MRI scans on the patients to track how ingesting the mushrooms changed the activity in their brains.

According to the Independent, the drug stabilized activity in a part of the brain linked to depression.

But don’t try taking magic mushrooms on your own, Carhart-Harris warned, as the patients in the study took the drug under safe, clinical circumstances. Instead, he suggested waiting until more conclusive research can be conducted.

Carhart-Harris’ study is just the latest that has suggested the key to fighting depression could lie in drugs that are currently illegal.

In 2015, Professor David Nutt of the Imperial college teamed up with Amanda Feilding from the Beckley Foundation for a study, which found “very promising” results that LSD could help curb depression as well, according to The Guardian.

Author Ayelet Waldman even wrote a book called “A Really Good Day” that details her experience with taking microdoses of LSD to stabilize her mood.

She talked to The Atlantic about her book, saying that taking small doses of the psychedelic drug every three days gave her “really good” days and helped her manage mental health issues.

It’s “not so much an acid trip as an acid errand,” she said.

But as The New York Times reported, there’s reason to be cautious regarding LSD: with its illegal nature, it’s hard to know how potent any dose is, meaning someone could think they’re taking just a little bit of a psychoactive drug but ingest much more than they can handle.

And according to NBC News, LSD is viewed as too strong and long-lasting by many in the medical community. Instead, NBC wrote, psilocybin and MDMA are the “star players in psychedelic research” at the moment, but still require additional research.

Carhart-Harris agrees that more studies are needed — but added that he is excited about what has been found through research so far.

“Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients,” he wrote on the Imperial College London website. “But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore.”