Mushrooms For Depression, Improving New Treatments With Old Magic:
Depression and anxiety seem like problems that face an increasing part of the population every day.
Along with society’s failure to spot it and adequately-help, Science is not doing a perfect job with its pharmaceutical treatments either.
And in those less-than-perfect drug-solutions we also get: Side-Effects.
One of which is not just the reduction of Negative emotions, but positive ones, too.
But researchers at a special branch of the UK’s Imperial College of London are borrowing a weird, old take on solving mind-problems of all types: Psychedelics…
A New Use For An Old Tool:
Long before LSD was synthesized at Sandoz Labs in the 1930s, mankind has been using mind-expanding substances to both get weird and gain spiritual insight.
These included Ayahuasca, Peyote, and strangely-enough, Psylocibin-bearing or “Magic” Mushrooms.
No wonder the Druids were so spooky.
And in an act of modern druidism, the Psychedelic Research Unit (no, that’s not an Austin Powers spy platoon) researchers are pairing those mushrooms with the increasing non-recreational knowledege-base on how those substances can help you literally change your mind.
In this case, if psychedelics can cause such radical temporary changes with longer-term improvements in the way a brain works,
-Can they improve the way we treat depression?
Can We Combine Two Wondertwins?:
The problem doctors find when they medicate someone for depression (or anxiety) aside from all the nutbar side-effects that make the cure seem worse than the disease,
Is as stated-above: It damps both negative and positive.
So, if LSD can turn the functioning of your brain basically inside-out,
Than what if some type of psychedelic could work a similar magic for depressed patients?
Changing Modes Away From The Default:
19 Test subjects, and counting, found out.
After stopping their meds for 2 weeks, they were given a small dose of psilocybin from mushrooms,
Some therapy support,
And then another larger dose of the same compound.
They were then put in special brain-scanners called fMRIs.
Not only did their symptoms improve,
But they had a strange response: Their previously-blunted emotional ranges came back.
Weirdly, in the region of the brain normally responsible for Fear, the subjects’ responses to pictures of either sad or happy faces was much more pronounced than it had been before, on antidepressants alone.
And just as in similar previous trials, several of the subjects reported feeling a type of emotional-cleansing where old negative thoughts seemed to have been cleared out.
First Things First:
Now this is just really the first step.
LSD does change the operation of the brain’s “Default Mode Network”, and the scans proved it.
But this new ICL study was small, and to ease the shock, subjects knew the procedures and exactly what they were going to take.
To both confirm and expand the results, the trials have to get bigger, be double-blind with placebo-comparisons, and also be compared against a control of observed-effects on non-depressed patients.
-All of which are in the works to flesh out the next steps in this process.
Is The Mushrooms+Medication Combo For Depression A Real Contender?:
And the kicker at the end of it is:
Does it last?
-Because, just like any other drug, the safety, efficacy, long-term benefits, and (yes I’m going to say it) potential side-effects also have to be tested before any new formulations are incorporated into future treatments.
Because, what if you have to keep taking it?
For example, in previous trials by the PRU, effects lasted for 5 weeks after treatment for those who were previously SSRI-resistant.
Or what if it doesn’t “work” for different types?
What if there are some people who should Absolutely Not take this as a potential cure, like Schizophrenics who are also depressed?
Bringing Science To What Was Previously-Informal:
Psychedelics have been around for awhile, but always administered in a Very non-scientific way.
And at least in a few anecdotes, the effects have been positively life-changing to a person’s enormous benefit.
Even Steve Jobs recommended Bill Gates to take LSD at least once or twice to expand his appreciation of quality user-experience in product-design.
Now perhaps with the aid of a little scientific rigor, a lot more than just a lack of emotional-range for SSRI patients can be fixed.
Maybe depression can even be cured.
Steve Jobs Was Right:
And to that end, maybe Steve Jobs was onto something, as a second paper published by the group showed that the larger the shamanistic-type or “mystical” experience reported by test-subjects,
The longer their positive-results lasted.
So for some people, maybe the very new trend of micro-dosing for cognitive performance enhancement is appropriate,
But for others, going out far-enough to achieve the mystical is needed to get the magnitude of the change they really need.
And though people like Michael Pollan have returned to relatively similar baselines, perhaps for others trying magic mushrooms for depression and anxiety could make all the difference in the world.
Photo Credits: “Psychedelic Roue”,by Emiliano Ricci
• Source: IC-London
• Source Studies:
• J.Neuropharmacology – Increased amygdala responses to emotional faces after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression
• Front.Pharmacol – Quality of Acute Psychedelic Experience Predicts Therapeutic Efficacy of Psilocybin for Treatment-Resistant Depression
• More Coverage: IC-London 10/13/2017 Mushroom Study | Sci-Rep – Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms