Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. This has prompted researchers to look for ways that can treat depression, reducing the economic burden of the disease. A recent study, published in the journal Neuropharmacology, claimed that psilocybins, popularly known as magic mushrooms, can elicit benefits like those of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — drugs used for treating major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder.
The researchers said that although deemed illegal, magic mushrooms can effectively treat depression, helping patients with severe symptoms, showing no signs of improvement with medication. Moreover, unlike antidepressants, psychedelic mushrooms do not blunt emotions. The findings revealed that majority of the patients taking magic mushrooms had seen significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, convincing the researchers that it could cure deep-rooted mental wounds.
PsyPost quoted study author Leor Roseman, a Ph.D. student at Imperial College London, as saying that he believed that psychedelics could heal deep psychological wounds. He added that by investigating their neuropsychopharmacological mechanism, experts can further identify its potential.
Researchers particularly interested in amygdala
The team led by Roseman was keen on understanding the effects these drugs had on the amygdala, a brain area linked with the processing of emotions and sensing threats. They inducted 20 patients suffering from severe depression and let them undergo two therapies with psilocybin. Providing them with brain scans before the start of their first session and after they had undergone the second one, the researchers, during the scans, showed them faces with fearful, neutral and happy expressions.
The findings showed that majority of the patients reported improvement in the patients’ depression symptoms after undergoing the mushroom therapy. After treatment with psilocybin, amygdala reactions to both happy and fearful faces increased in the patients. “Psilocybin-assisted therapy might mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection. This is unlike SSRI antidepressants which are criticized for creating a general emotional blunting in many people,” said Roseman.
Many other studies have reported that depression is linked to greater responses to negative, sad and fearful emotions in faces. However, an earlier study by a few of the experts had found that drugs can usually reset circuits in the brains of depressed people, but they reported an improvement only for five weeks after completing treatment.
Classified as Schedule I drug
Though the researchers conducting the study on magic mushrooms claimed that they can cure depression, one cannot overlook the fact that the United States has classified these as Schedule I drugs. Moreover, whenever a study is conducted, the participants are given synthetic forms of such psychedelic drugs in a controlled environment.
People who have used magic mushrooms on their own have suffered side effects like panic attacks, hallucinations, uncontrolled feelings of euphoria, an inaccurate sense of time and place, outbursts and erratic and irrational behavior. Long-term side effects of using psychedelic drugs include addiction, anxiety, extreme paranoia, schizophrenia and depression.
Other ways of treating depression
Rather than banking on psychedelic drugs to cure depression, one should seek professional help. Depression is the foremost mental disorder in the world affecting more than 300 million people worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the economic burden of depression in the U.S. was estimated to be $210.5 billion in 2010, which included workplace costs, direct costs and suicide-related costs. The dangers of depression are manifold, including an increased risk for mortality from suicide as well as other consequences, like heart disease.
However, depression can be treated with timely intervention. If you have a loved one grappling with severe depression, seek help from some trustworthy residential treatment centers for depression immediately. Sovereign Health is the leading behavioral health treatment provider in the United States with top residential depression treatment centers for patients. For further information, call our 24/7 helpline members or chat online with our experts.