In recent years, various study results have suggested that psychedelic substances could be an option for the treatment of various mental illnesses. In particular, psilocybin, the active ingredient from the so-called “magic mushrooms,” delivered promising results in the treatment of depression.
In the medical journal “Journal of Psychiatric Practice,” a scientific working group now offers a comprehensive overview of the therapeutic use of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin. The researchers also explain why, despite the positive developments, there are still many challenges before this form of therapy can be used in clinical practice.
What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a natural psychedelic substance found in over 180 species of mushrooms. Mushrooms of the bald head genus in particular are rich in psilocybin. In Central Europe, the pointed conical bald head (Psilocybe semilanceata) is one of the mushrooms with the highest content.
Because of their psychedelic effects, mushrooms containing psilocybin are often referred to as “magic mushrooms” or “magic mushrooms”. Mushrooms have been consumed as a mind-expanding drug for centuries.
Therapeutic potential of mind-expanding substances
Recent studies have also examined psilocybin as a promising agent for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, particularly major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression.
Scientists suspect that the therapeutic effects of psilocybin are closely linked to intense emotional or mystical experiences that enable mentally ill people to overcome stereotypical thought patterns and broaden their perspectives.
How does psilocybin work in the brain?
As the working group describes in the study overview, many results indicate that psilocybin increases activity between different brain networks without causing excessive activation of individual networks. These changes in the flexibility of brain networks have been linked to long-term improvements in depression symptoms.
Advances in clinical trials
To date, all psilocybin treatment studies have been conducted with a psychotherapeutic component, including preparation, dosing, and integration phases. During the integration phases, subjects are encouraged to share their experiences in order to gain insights and support behavioral changes.
Different dosing strategies are currently being explored in academic and commercial settings, with utmost importance placed on patient safety during the psychedelic experience.
Outlook for the future
There are a variety of planned or ongoing studies on the use of psilocybin for depression and other mental illnesses such as cancer-related anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In some countries, such as Australia and the United States, psilocybin has already been identified as a promising therapy for treatment-resistant depression, although legal and regulatory hurdles remain.
“Psilocybin has proven to be a promising new therapeutic agent and offers new perspectives on the function and dysfunction of the brain,” summarize the authors of the review. However, they caution that there are clinical, legal and research hurdles to overcome before psilocybin and other mind-altering substances can be used in clinical practice. (vb)