Science: Magic Mushrooms May Help Depression By ‘Resetting’ The Brain


We’ve all heard “This is your brain on drugs.” But what about your brain after drugs? What happens then? A new study has emerged, and it’s got some fascinating answers on that very topic.

The study looked at psilocybin — the active ingredient in magic mushrooms — and its lasting effects on the body. Psilocybin turns into psilocin in the body, which in turn binds tightly with serotonin receptors in the brain. Sound familiar? It should; that’s how many common antidepressants like Prozac also work. Unlike Prozac, though, psilocybin has a number of notable effects like hallucinations, euphoria and even anxiety and paranoia, depending on the person and the setting.

The study gave 20 patients with depression that didn’t respond to other treatments two small doses of psilocybin, and then scanned their brains. The results? People felt uplifted, happier — and those feelings lasted. It appears the psilocin dissolves connections between certain parts of the brain and either restores them after it fades, or the brain repairs those connections post drug use. The effect was compared to a sort of “reset button.” So not only are mushrooms being heralded for their effects on the brain while tripping, they also may be helping you after your trip is over.

It’s not a ton to read into yet, as it was a small sample of people and there was no control group. A followup study is already planned. Also, none of this is carte blanche to eat the whole bag of shrooms at a rave; these were small, controlled doses administered by doctors in calm, monitored environments. (Related: Don’t hog the drugs.)

If the research continues to bear out, the study has a host of interesting implications — well beyond just settling Twitter arguments. Depression is a tough disease at the best of times and being able to reorder the brain’s connections and actually heal how the brain processes information might be a help. It will also open some questions as to what other traditionally recreational drugs may be capable of supporting the mental health of patients. Especially with MDMA already being heralded as the future of trauma therapy.

(via The Verge)