Within the last decade, research and public interest in psychedelics like magic mushrooms has exploded. That’s because it turns out that magic mushrooms may be the key to treating depression.
Researchers have been hard at work figuring out how magic mushrooms can relieve depression over the last few decades. As each year passes, they’re discovering more and more.
Continue reading below to find out how magic mushrooms may be able to defeat depression once and for all.
What Are Magic Mushrooms?
Before we jump into it, you may be wondering what magic mushrooms actually are. By definition, magic mushrooms are any mushroom that contain the hallucinogenic compounds psilocybin and psilocin.
However, the most popular and widespread magic mushrooms are a species called Psilocybe cubensis. These mushrooms are easy to grow and maintain, which has made them a staple worldwide.
Once these psychedelic mushrooms are grown, they’re harvested and then completely dried. The dried magic mushrooms are then eaten, made into tea, or mixed with lemon juice.
Once the body begins ingesting magic mushrooms, the psilocybin and psilocin begin to work their magic. Once the magic mushrooms start to take hold, the process is called tripping or having a psychedelic experience.
How Do Magic Mushrooms Work?
As we mentioned, magic mushrooms work through their hallucinogenic substances psilocybin and psilocin. A hallucinogen is something that can alter your perception of reality.
That means you can see, feel, and hear things that seem real but actually don’t exist. However, not all hallucinations are intense and mind-bending.
Many hallucinations can be mild—like colors becoming more vibrant, everything taking on a breathing effect, or objects looking much clearer. On the other hand, hallucinations can be intense and produce geometric patterns or complex visuals.
On top of that, psilocybin can also alter mood and emotions. Many people who take magic mushrooms feel awe with the world around them and an incredible sense of euphoria.
Are Magic Mushrooms Safe?
Yes, in fact, magic mushrooms may be the safest drug on the planet. In a 2017 survey, magic mushrooms sent only 0.2% of 10,000 people to the hospital.
The surprising thing is that the number is way less than the amount of people sent to the hospital from cannabis use. Like cannabis, it’s impossible to overdose on magic mushrooms.
The only adverse effect of magic mushrooms is having a bad trip. Fortunately, bad trips only cause distress during the trip, and there are no long-term side effects from psychedelic mushroom use.
However, many people have heard rumors that psychedelics can cause psychosis. A 2013 study cleared that up by showing that psychedelics like magic mushrooms don’t cause mental health problems.
Magic Mushrooms and Depression
The complex nature of depression is difficult to treat, especially with current antidepressant drugs. However, magic mushrooms are showing that they can be a mental health game-changer.
For example, a study in 2020 found that magic mushrooms helped relieve depression among people with major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is a condition that can’t be treated with regular antidepressant medicines.
However, just two sessions of psychedelic mushrooms helped people overcome their depression after the session. The most amazing part is that magic mushrooms seem to be able to cause a lasting effect.
In the study mentioned above, most patients in the study found their depression was still relieved even a month after their last trip.
In another clinical trial in 2016, researchers gave 12 patients two sessions of magic mushrooms one week apart. The findings were that all of the patients felt relief at least three weeks after.
Six months later, the researchers followed up with the patients to see if the magic mushrooms were still working. Most of the patients were still finding their depression relieved even after all that time.
Perhaps the best evidence of magic mushrooms being effective at treating depression is from people with life-threatening illnesses. Cancer and other life-threatening diseases often cause deep depressions and anxieties.
So researchers in 2016 performed a clinical trial with 51 patients who had life-threatening cancer and depression. Once again, the psilocybin was given to patients in two sessions over five weeks.
After six months, the researchers found that over 80% of the patients felt that their depression was relieved.
How Do Magic Mushrooms Work on Depression?
Now the question is, what is it about a psychedelic experience that helps with depression? One of the pioneering psilocybin researchers named Dr. Roland R Griffiths thinks that it may have to do with something he calls a mystical experience.
In one of the first clinical psilocybin studies, Griffiths performed a two-session psilocybin trial among people who have never taken psychedelics before. He noticed that those who had the most positive benefit from the psilocybin were those who had a mystical experience.
After a high-dose session with an intense psychedelic experience, most of the participants felt this mystical experience. Basically, the mystical experience is a spiritual one.
This makes sense because psychedelic mushrooms were used for centuries as a spiritual tool. Spirituality can lead to meaningfulness in people’s lives, and that’s maybe why magic mushrooms can relieve depression.
In a 14-month follow-up of Griffiths’ study, 24 participants felt that the hallucinogenic experience was the most meaningful experience of their entire lives. One of the participants perhaps said it best:
“The experience expanded my conscious awareness permanently. It allows me to let go of negative ideas faster. I accept “what is” easier.”
An expanded consciousness perhaps leads to more awareness, which in turn allows those with depression to gain a new perspective.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
Despite all this wonderful news, magic mushrooms are still completely prohibited in most countries. Sadly, millions of people in the US and around the world could have their lives changed with just a few sessions of magic mushroom use.
However, there have been some significant changes in recent years. Recently a California Assembly Committee approved a bill to legalize possession of psychedelics.
Oregon became the first state in the US to legalize magic mushrooms medicinally.
The program won’t be up and running until at least 2023, but it’s a good start. Hopefully, as more research comes out, people will begin to embrace the medicinal use of magic mushrooms.
Once that happens, we can hopefully start healing mental health issues like depression in natural ways.