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Mushrooms Work Magic on Hard-To-Treat Depression, Study Finds

After one week, a whopping 100 percent of the participants were free of depression.

Your hippie friends might have been right after all. A new study published in Lancelot Psychology Journal has found promising evidence that suggests magic mushrooms can relieve depression in patients who have not otherwise responded to conventional treatments.

Scientists at Imperial College London administered high doses of psilocybin, the main compound in magic mushrooms, to 12 volunteers with treatment-resistant depression. After one week, a whopping 100 percent of the participants were free of depression and five individuals remained symptom-free after three months. The researchers have called the results “promising, but not completely compelling,” due to the inherent limitations of the study. For the study to be considered truly rigorous, the researchers would have needed to use a placebo group to rule out other factors possibly contributing to the results. Yet, the use of a placebo group was not a possibility due to the fact that it would have been rather obvious as to which group ingested the hallucinogenic substance.

While more research is needed, the scientists believe that psilocybin targets receptors in the brain that disrupt the Default Mode Network, an area that is responsible for sense of self and is overactive in depressed people. However, scientists are unable to rule out other possible theories, including the possibility that the hallucinogenic drug induced some sort of awakening or spiritual experience in the participants. According to the National Institute of Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. An estimated 6.7% of all adults in the United States had one major depressive episode in the past year and approximately 121 million people worldwide experience depression. Of these people, around 10-30% either do not respond to current treatments or show a minimal response in symptom reduction but still continue to experience major functional impairments.

While the results of this new study are definitely promising, the researchers caution against people trying this unconventional treatment at home. “Psychedelic drugs have potent psychological effects and are only given in our research when appropriate safeguards are in place, such as careful screening and professional therapeutic support,” lead author Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris said. “I wouldn’t want members of the public thinking they can treat their own depressions by picking their own magic mushrooms. That kind of approach could be risky.”

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