A New Study Finds a Psychedelic Treatment for Depression, with a Side of Mushrooms

A new study shows that psilocybin can "reset" the brain and put depression in the rear-view mirror. 

A New Study Finds a Psychedelic Treatment for Depression, with a Side of Mushrooms
Pexels

Depression is one of the most common medical conditions afflicting the world today. However, despite its familiarity, treatments are still wanting. Most common antidepressants are considered to have a low to moderate effect on typical cases. The search for more effective ways to treat depression is of great importance—depression costs a trillion dollars (!) in lost productivity each year and takes the lives of 2-7% of those who suffer from it.  

A new study suggests that an effective drug has been under our noses for some time... magic mushrooms.

In a study from the Imperial College in London, nineteen patients were given two incrementally larger doses of psilocybin a week apart. MRI scans were taken on the brains of the patients before and after the trips. It was found that the drugs had the effect of reducing and then increasing the amount of blood flow to and changing the activity levels of differing regions of the brain, some of which are associated with depressive symptoms.


The patients also self-reported improved mood lasting for up to five weeks after ingestion, which was supported by MRI scans showing changed brain activity. The patients went so far as to say that they felt as though their brains had been “reset” or “rebooted”. This effect is well known in unscientific settings as the “afterglow” of psychedelic use.

MRI scans confirmed the idea that the brain’s default mode network had reduced activity during the patient’s trip, a change that previous studies had found. Interestingly, activity in that region increased after the trips, a finding which surprised the researchers. While this area of the brain is typically associated with depression, other areas associated with improved mood also saw heightened activity after the trips. This reduction in activity followed by a restoration to normal levels was dubbed a “reset” mechanism by the authors of the study, who proposed further study into the concept.

Many new studies of depression focus on the default mode network and this effect could prove substantial. Several antidepressant drugs also work with this system to try and reduce the symptoms of depression. The drug used in the study, psilocybin, is the primary drug found in magic mushrooms and is reasonable for the psychedelic effects. The study gave them the equivalent of one to two and a half grams of mushrooms, which is a typical recreational dosage.

It is important to remember when considering this study that it lacked a control group, a vital part of any definitive study. Similarly, it was done on a mere nineteen individuals... which is far too small of a number to take this study as final proof that magic mushrooms can cure depression. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the results of one study done without a control group is no reason to self-medicate. But there are an increasing number of studies being done on mushrooms and their ability to cure - or at least curb - depression. 

The results of the study are yet another element of the current interest science has taken in psychedelics. Long banned from medical use and study, recent investigations have shown great potential for treatment of psychiatric disease from these psychedelic drugs. Of course, the placement of psilocybin as a schedule 1 drug in the United States, alongside heroin, will slow down any further investigations.

This study, while small and preliminary, does show another potential treatment for a widespread and often crippling disease. While much more research is needed, the results are promising. Could depression be treated with a trip every once in a while? More research is needed, but it is a tremendous opportunity for new treatments to be developed for people in need. 

A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree / AdobeStock
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
Keep reading Show less

Astrophysicists: Gamma-ray jets exceed the speed of light

Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.

An artist's drawing of a particle jet emanating from a black hole at the center of a blazar.

Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab (used with permission by Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is co-managed by Robert Nemiroff at Michigan Tech).
Surprising Science
  • Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
  • The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
  • The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Keep reading Show less

​'The time is now' for cryptocurrencies, PayPal CEO says

Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?

Technology & Innovation
  • In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
  • Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
  • While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Keep reading Show less

"Clean meat" approved for sale in Singapore

Singapore has approved the sale of a lab-grown meat product in an effort to secure its food supplies against disease and climate change.

Credit: Adobe Stock / Big Think
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Singapore has become the first country to approve the sale of a lab-grown meat product.
  • Eat Just, the company behind the product, will have a small-scale commercial launch of its chicken bites.
  • So-called "clean meats" may reduce our reliance on livestock farming, which kills billions of animals worldwide every year.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast