What we do know, however, is that psychedelics have a fundamentally different effect on the brain than addictive drugs like alcohol and cocaine do. Cocaine, for example, elicits a deep, euphoric sensation by temporarily flooding the brain’s reward and motivation centers. In some people, this can trigger a cycle of reinforcement that traps them in addition, even when the same amount of the drug no longer results in a characteristic “high.” The psychedelic drug psilocybin, on the other hand (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms), appears to fundamentally alter the infrastructure of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and change how information in this area of the brain is exchanged.
Psilocybin isn’t the only psychedelic drug that researchers are studying for its potentially therapeutic effects, however. They’re also looking at LSD (“acid”), DMT (ayahuasca), and more. Each drug has a different trip length and varies in terms of its legality across the globe.
Methods for producing, brewing, and taking the drugs differ as well.
While magic mushrooms are typically either grown and eaten, brewed into tea, or ground up and taken in pill form, LSD is made synthetically and usually processed into strips that can be absorbed by placing them on the tongue.
Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is usually consumed as a beverage. It’s brewed from the macerated and boiled vines of the Banisteriopsis caapi (yage) plant and the Psychotria viridis (chacruna) leaf, and it has been used for centuries as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Ayahuasca’s effects come from mixing the drug dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, from the chacruna plant, and the MAO inhibitor from the yage plant, which allows the DMT to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
With medical marijuana now legalized in 28 states and the District of Columbia, the debate over when, and if, a previously illegal and often stigmatized drug should be used to treat serious symptoms will likely carry on through the foreseeable future. However, new research shows that another illegal, and far more psychedelic, the substance may also have certain health advantages as well.
According to the results of two studies released last year, psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, can help ease feelings of anxiety and depression in cancer patients.
In both studies, one conducted at NYU and the other at Johns Hopkins University, 80 percent of cancer patients reported a decrease in anxiety and depression for at least six months. Psychiatric evaluators also supported their patients’ claims, noting an increase in optimism as well as overall quality of life. In the NYU-led research, 70 percent of participants said taking psilocybin was one of the five most important experiences they’d ever had.
That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that psilocybin is still considered a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning psychedelic mushrooms are legally considered to have no legitimate medical use and possess a high potential for abuse. Additionally, the treatment given in both studies was conducted under the care of medical professionals, meaning it isn’t recommended as some sort of catchall, home remedy for anxiety and depression.
Other, smaller studies have even found evidence that psilocybin may be beneficial in alcoholism, smoking addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder, meaning there may be even more reasons to call mushrooms “magic.”
Psilocybin is considered as a drug with high potential for abuse and is not considered for medicinal use. However, mushroom-derived psilocybin is used in developing treatment for neurological disorders. When used properly, psilocybin mushrooms are found to be effective antidepressants. It can also be used to treat alcoholism and other addictions.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers surveyed 2,000 people who experienced negative effects while taking psilocybin-containing “magic mushrooms,” The survey was focused on the challenging experiences the respondents had linked to the drug.
Results revealed that 10.7 percent of the participants have exposed themselves or others to physical harm, meanwhile, 2.6 percent said there were times when they acted violently or aggressively. Some 2.7 percent said they had the need to seek medical help while five of the participants said they attempted suicide at worst.
The researchers advised caution in using the magic mushrooms. They added it must be used under supportive and safe environments, like those in ongoing studies, to prevent negative effects.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the researchers conducted a survey of nearly 2,000 people who said they encountered a past negative experience when taking psilocybin-containing “magic mushrooms”. In fact, more than 10 percent believed their worst “bad trip” could put themselves or other at risk for physical harm.
Another 2.5 percent of the respondents said that behaved aggressively after taking magic mushrooms while 2.7 percent had to seek medical help. The researchers, however, warned that the survey they conducted dud not apply to all psilocybin use because the questionnaire used wasn’t designed to study the “good trip” experiences.
Positive Experiences Too
According to PsychCentral, despite the risk of psilocybin use, most of them still reported the experience to be “worthwhile” and “meaningful”. About half of the positive responses by users of magic mushrooms claimed that it was one of the top most valuable experiences in their life.
What Are Magic Mushrooms And Psilocybin?
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance obtained from magic mushrooms which are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of Mexico, South America and the United States.
Though many studies have shown that psilocybin could be used to treat anxiety and depression, the use of this substance is associated with negative psychological and physical consequences. The physical effects of magic mushrooms usually take place within 20 minutes of ingestion. These could last for about 6 hours and include muscle weakness, drowsiness, lack of coordination, nausea and vomiting.
On the other hand, psychological effects of magic mushrooms include hallucinations and an inability to discern reality from fantasy. In large doses, however, panic and psychosis may occur.
Counsel & Heal
Researchers recently published the results of a large survey they conducted with magic mushroom consumers, one in which they specifically looked for details about bad trips and their lasting effects.
The survey was recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, where it details the survey results of nearly 2,000 magic mushroom consumers. The researchers, who are with Johns Hopkins, specifically asked for individuals who experienced difficult or bad trips after consuming these mushrooms.
More than half of these ‘beneficial’ bad trip experiencers went on to say the difficult experience ultimately ranks among the top ten most valuable experiences they’ve ever had. Of those surveyed, 66% were from the U.S., 78% were men, 89% were white, and 51% were college educated.
There’s a note of caution among it all, though — of those surveyed, more than 7% said they had to seek treatment for ‘enduring psychological symptoms,’ three cases resulted in ‘enduring psychotic symptoms,’ and three cases resulted in an attempted suicide.
Psilocybin, the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects. In the U.S, the magic mushroom is considered a Schedule I substance, which means that it has a high potential for abuse.
In 2014, an estimated 22.9 million people in the U.S. reported lifetime use of Psilocybin, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Recent studies have documented a wide range of positive effects of Psilocybin on the human brain, say easing depression or anxiety. But it is equally important to inform consumers about the risks associated with its use.
According to the survey data, 39% of the respondents rated acute and enduring adverse effects of Psilocybin among the top five most challenging experiences of his/her lifetime. Eleven percent put self or others at risk of physical harm during their difficult or challenging experience (i.e., a “bad trip”). There were also three cases of attempted suicide.
But, that said the rates of adverse effects after psilocybin use have been fund to be very low relative to adverse effects associated with other psychoactive drugs, according to the survey data.
Psilocybin—the hallucinogenic compound in so-called “magic” mushrooms—can effectively ease cancer patients’ depression and anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. As many as 40% of cancer patients experience depression.
A 2014 study found users of hallucinogenic mushrooms might experience more happiness. A 2015 study linked psychedelic drugs to a reduction in thoughts of suicide, and a 2016 study found psychedelic drug use was linked to lower rates of domestic violence among men with a history of substance abuse.
Participants completed interviews and questionnaires about their mood, feelings about life, and behavior before the first session, seven hours after each dose, five weeks after each dose, and six months following the final session. At the six-month mark, 80% of participants had reductions in depression and anxiety, with 60% no longer experiencing symptoms severe enough to warrant a diagnosis