Can Magic Mushrooms Cure Depression?

Magic mushrooms and depression. You may find yourself asking the question: should I take magic mushrooms if I am going through depression? That’s entirely up to you, and no one can make that decision for you. Please bear in mind that mushrooms are not right for everyone. Some people might do better with frog medicine (Kambo), toad medicine (Bufo), cactus medicine (Peyote/ San Pedro), vine medicine (Ayahuasca), flower medicine (Cannabis/ CBD) or other master plants. Some folks may not benefit from any of these traditional medicines and may do better with more ‘conventional’ medicines or therapies. It’s always best to educate yourself before making any decisions regarding your health. If you are taking prescription medications, make sure you read about any contraindications that plant medicines may have with your current prescribed medicines. Never quit your prescription medications cold turkey because that can lead to serious complications.

Mushrooms as medicine have been used for millennia by indigenous cultures all over the world with Zero negative health effects. Personally, I had my first mushroom trip when I was just 16 years of age. I’ve taken them after traumatic events and I’ve taken them while going through depression. I simply love the experience and I feel that a good mushroom journey is definitely needed every now and then. Throughout my life, I have met several people who have also found relief from depression, cluster headaches and even suicidality with the help of psilocybin mushrooms. But can we honestly say that mushrooms have helped people get rid of cluster headaches, depression, anxiety, fear and most importantly, suicidal tendencies? If you are having trouble believing my personal stories of personal healing or of people healing themselves with mushrooms and other plant medicines, that is perfectly fine. It is healthy to be doubtful of things you read online. The great thing is, scientific research is now able to validate these claims. Researchers and clinicians have been busy researching and holding clinical trials with plant medicines that indigenous groups have been using for millennia. The goal of these researchers and clinicians is to someday integrate these plant medicines into modern medicine and society.

Magic Mushrooms for Creativity

Can mushrooms also help people get creative with the arts and even help others to come up with creative solutions for challenges that may arise at the workplace or home? Ask the tech gurus from Silicon Valley. They seem to swear by these substances, especially in micro doses. 1

Personally, I’ve heard stories from friends and family that describe a black shadow leaving their chest while using mushrooms. These same people report lasting relief from depression and cluster headaches that begins immediately after their mushroom journey and watching these black shadows leave their physical bodies. Others just want to experience the trip and when they do sometimes it’s profound and other times its just fun and that’s okay too because they always describe a great time and who could ever be against having “a great time?” Experiencing a good time may have some therapeutic value. Others have very difficult experiences and when that happens, sometimes they never want to do it again. Most often the mushrooms give you what you need and not necessarily what you want.

Indigenous people in Mexico and Central America have been using mushrooms medicinally for thousands of years. Now that science is able to research psilocybin, it gives validation to what these cultures already knew. Current research is proving that mushrooms, when used sensibly in a safe setting, are indeed safe and an essential part of the human experience. Terence McKenna said, “I think of going to the grave without having a Psychedelic Experience as like going to the grave without ever having Sex. It means that you never figured out what it is all about. The Mystery is in the Body and the way the body works itself into nature.” It’s just that essential to the human experience, and anyone who has used them knows his statement holds true even today.

Clinical Research on Magic Mushrooms

Several universities in the U.S. and Europe have conducted clinical research studies. John Hopkins University found some really interesting results, with about 80% of participants showing “clinically significant” decreases in depressed mood and anxiety, and about 60% showing symptom remission into the normal range.

83% reported increases in well-being or life satisfaction.

67% of participants reported the experience as one of the top five meaningful experiences in their lives.

About 70% reported the experience as one of their top five spiritually significant life events.

“The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts four to six hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms, and this may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions,” says Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology in the Departments of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The below is just one of several research studies using psilocybin to treat 12 patients with treatment-resistant depression. These are people who have been unable to find relief through conventional medicine, and this is what Dr. Robin L Carhart-Harris and colleagues found when they administered psilocybin to these same 12 individuals. “Relative to baseline, depressive symptoms were markedly reduced. Marked and sustained improvements in anxiety and anhedonia were also noted.” I’ll leave the rest as is below so you can see for yourself what this research has found. There are many more studies that have been published available for research online. There is an ever-increasing body of research data being collected every day. Look around if you are intrigued and share everything you find with others.

Psilocybin: A Detailed Clinical Report

Please see the below research report by Dr. Robin L Carhart-Harris Ph.D. and colleagues.

Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)

Dr. Robin L Carhart-Harris PhD

“Psilocybin is a serotonin receptor agonist that occurs naturally in some mushroom species. Recent studies have assessed the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for various conditions, including end-of-life anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and smoking and alcohol dependence, with promising preliminary results. Here, we aimed to investigate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of psilocybin in patients with unipolar treatment-resistant depression.

Methods

In this open-label feasibility trial, 12 patients (six men, six women) with moderate-to-severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. There was no control group. Psychological support was provided before, during, and after each session. The primary outcome measure for feasibility came from patient-reports of the intensity of psilocybin’s effects. Patients were monitored for adverse reactions during the dosing sessions and subsequent clinic and remote follow-up. Depressive symptoms were assessed with standard assessments from 1 week to 3 months after treatment, with the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (QIDS) serving as the primary efficacy outcome. This trial is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN14426797.

Findings

Psilocybin’s acute psychedelic effects typically became detectable 30–60 min after dosing, peaked 2–3 h after dosing and subsided to negligible levels at least 6 h after dosing. Mean self-rated intensity (on a 0–1 scale) was 0·51 (SD 0·36) for the low-dose session and 0·75 (SD 0·27) for the high-dose session. Psilocybin was well tolerated by all of the patients, and no serious or unexpected adverse events occurred. The adverse reactions we noted were transient anxiety during drug onset (all patients), transient confusion or thought disorder (nine patients), mild and transient nausea (four patients), and transient headaches (four patients). Relative to baseline, depressive symptoms were markedly reduced 1 week (mean QIDS difference −11·8, 95% CI −9·15 to −14·35, p=0·002, Hedges’ g=3·1) and 3 months (−9·2, 95% CI −5·69 to −12·71, p=0·003, Hedges’ g=2) after high-dose treatment. Marked and sustained improvements in anxiety and anhedonia were also noted.

Interpretation

This study provides preliminary support for the safety and efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and motivates further trials, with more rigorous designs, to better examine the therapeutic potential of this approach.

Funding by:

Medical Research Council.

Introduction

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring plant alkaloid found in the Psilocybe genus of mushrooms. Psilocybe mushrooms have been used for millennia for healing purposes but were only discovered by modern science in the late 1950s. Psilocybin is a prodrug of psilocin (4-hydroxy-dimethyltryptamine), a serotonin receptor agonist and classic psychedelic drug whose principal psychoactive effects are mediated by serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonism. Psilocybin, therefore, has novel pharmacology in the context of currently available antidepressant medications, because selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are not direct 5-HT2A receptor agonists.

Enhanced cognitive flexibility, associative learning, cortical neuroplasticity, and antidepressant responses have been reported with 5-HT2A receptor agonism in animals, and increased and sustained improvements in wellbeing and optimism have been observed after psychedelic experiences in human beings. Findings from human imaging studies with psilocybin have supplemented these discoveries, showing changes in brain activity suggestive of antidepressant potential; for example, a range of effective antidepressant treatments have been found to normalize hyperactivity in the medial prefrontal cortex and we found reduced blood flow in this region with intravenous psilocybin. Moreover, data obtained from large-scale population studies have recently challenged the view that psychedelics negatively affect mental health, with one study’s findings showing lower rates of psychological distress and suicidality among people who had used psychedelics within their lifetime than among those who used no psychedelics but an equivalent amount of other drugs. In modern trials, psychedelics have been found to reduce anxiety, depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, as well as addictive behaviors, often for several months after just one or two exposures. Extensive historical and modern evidence now supports the view that, administered in a controlled environment with appropriate support, psychedelics have a favorable safety profile.” 3

Traditional and Modern Therapeutic Approaches

I’m sure you’ll agree that all of the above are some pretty promising results, and I can see why clinicians are now so excited about treating patients with psilocybin. But have a read of this – one of the statements made by the researchers I mentioned above, from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The researchers cautioned that the drug was given in tightly controlled conditions in the presence of two clinically trained monitors”. They said, “we do not recommend the use of the compound (psilocybin) outside of such a research-focused or patient care setting.”

I feel that this is a mistake, these guys have forgotten where they first learned about this naturally occurring substance. It certainly wasn’t a clinical setting with clinically “trained monitors.” They must have forgotten that they learned about magic mushrooms through an authentic, traditional, indigenous curandera, Doña Maria Sabina and her all night ‘Velada’. Let’s not forget about her and let’s honor her ancient traditional model as equal to that of the clinical model. Let’s recognize that the therapeutic/clinical model is a marriage of ancient and modern modalities. Otherwise, this may be considered as one of the most elaborate cases of cultural appropriation the world has ever seen. It is a great idea to have clinically trained doctors and monitors, but that model will not work for everyone. Some people want to experience the traditional setting that doctors and their clinics cannot facilitate. There are a lot of qualified practitioners that can indeed facilitate a traditional style mushroom journey. On the other hand, some folks might feel more comfortable in a clinical setting, and so it is important to offer both modalities. We should allow people to choose what they feel more comfortable with. 2

You might be thinking, what’s the difference if they are both using mushrooms? Well, there are several differences – one of the main ones being that the therapists are not ingesting mushrooms with their patients. Whereas some but not all indigenous curanderos (medicine people or shamans) do ingest mushrooms with their patients and often times twice as much. Is one method better than the other? In my humble opinion, no. One model is not necessarily better over the other. As long as the patient is receiving the medicinal mushrooms within a safe setting, then they are equally important. Curanderos have cultivated a relationship with the spirit of the mushrooms, so a lot of them consume mushrooms together with their patients and a lot of times the mushrooms give them the prescription needed to heal the patient. So with the indigenous version, you get a curandero or shaman to help you figure out what the problem is. The modern therapeutic version holds you by the hand as you find out for yourself what the problem is. This is good too because this empowers the people to do their own healing. Terence McKenna understood this, and that’s why he said, “Avoid gurus, follow plants.” It’s the plants or in this case the fungi or mushrooms, that do the healing and the teaching. Do I believe mushrooms teach us things like how to cure an illness? Pardon my French but, f@€k yes, I believe! After everything I have witnessed these past 24 years and not to mention all the current research that is still ongoing, it’s difficult not to believe!

Another major difference between traditional and modern methods is the live chanting or singing and traditional instruments, such as shakers or drums. Therapists follow this example in a more modern way with a pleasant musical selection playing through headphones or loudspeakers. I actually like this approach as well, and often times play music for myself, friends and family. The therapists also have integrative psychotherapy sessions with their patients. This is essential to healing with psilocybin, whether in the traditional therapeutic or clinical way. Similar to the fact that purging is in many cases essential to healing with psilocybin in an indigenous way. Again, both ancient and modern modalities are needed and both serve their purpose. Whether in ancient settings or modern settings, as long as the medicine is being administered the magic will happen.

The therapeutic setting requires a unique screening process. You have to fill out long questionnaires and provide lots of personal information. This is a good thing because not only mushrooms but psychedelics, in general, can bring about latent psychological problems in people who are predisposed to such conditions. Researchers try to avoid any volunteers that have a history of drug abuse or a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Does the therapeutic/clinical version work as well as the ‘velada’ ceremonies? For some folks, yes; others want the whole ceremony vibe and some people just want to self-medicate at festivals or underground style parties or even at home or a cabin in the mountains, or a little house in the desert – and these are all great settings. It’s about what suits the sentiments and preferences of each person. For me, parties are iffy; too many variables and it’s not always safe. Despite how I feel about it, though, people have always and will always continue to take psychedelics at parties and festivals. I guess it’s important to mention that just because some people cannot enjoy a psychedelic experience at parties and festivals that doesn’t necessarily mean that no one can. People love “shrooming”, “rolling” (Ecstasy/ MDMA) and “frying” (LSD) at festivals, and that’s why they continue to do so every weekend. If we’re totally honest here, most festivals facilitate the psychedelic experience with psychedelic themed music, lasers, pyrotechnics, psychedelic art, and props. These events go on to the early hours of the morning. Since people insist on continuing this behavior, we have beautiful groups like Zendo and Dance Safe 5 forming. These guys are a little bit late showing up on the scene, but hey! Better late than never.

I truly hope you’ve found this article useful and insightful. And please know that you can always rely on us here at EntheoNation for all things mushrooms and psychedelics

 

References:

  1.  Silicon Valley
  2.  Can Magic Mushrooms Cure Depression?
  3.  Clinical Research Studies
  4.  Zendo
  5.  Dance Safe

About the author, Balam

Balam is descended from a lineage of medicine women from Mexico and Guatemala from his mothers' side. His great, great grandmother Mama Rosa and great-grandmother, known as Mama Linda were curanderas they lived and learned traditional healing modalities from the Maya of Chiapas Mexico. His mother and aunts still use some traditional recipes that have been verbally passed down their lineage for ages. His father is descended from the Kaqchikel Maya of Guatemala. Balam has survived eight near-death experiences including two that required time in the ICU.

At the age of sixteen, he had an initiation experience with psilocybin mushrooms and soon after began to grow his own. During the past twenty-four years, he has facilitated hundreds of mushroom journeys for friends and family. He has witnessed young men in danger of becoming gang members change and find purpose in life. He has witnessed mean, violent people become gentle, loving souls. He has helped many people beat depression, anxiety, addiction and most importantly suicidality.

Balam has successfully navigated through extreme trauma and abuse. He has beaten several addictions and severe PTSD. With experience, he has created a nontraditional, modern midnight mushroom ceremony. It is his firm belief "If you have a teen that has already attempted suicide you owe it to yourself and your child to at least try a mushroom journey. At this point what do you have to lose? Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get a person out of the danger zone."

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