Studies strengthen theory that psilocybin improves overall mental health
There are also legions of psychonauts who have been conducting their own research into psychedelic realms for decades. Two recent studies from both ends of the spectrum show more possibilities for psilocybin and depression. Turns out whether in a hospital setting or the comfort of home, mushrooms can lift the mood.
Study explores psilocybin trips at home
Preliminary trials have piqued interest in how psilocybin could enhance general mood and mental health. One survey sought to mine data from those eating magic mushrooms at home, calling the non-clinical practice of consuming psilocybin “naturalistic.”
Results are now published in Frontiers Psychiatry. Four writers have previously served as scientific advisors for psychedelic corporations, some in paid positions.
Who opted in for the magic mushroom survey?
A total of 2,833 self-volunteered participants signed up to complete the six sequential surveys before and after their trip. The average age of respondents was 40 years old. A majority were white men.
People filled out survey one at the time of consent to the study, the next two were two weeks, and then one day before the trip. One to three days after consuming psilocybin, two to four weeks after, and two to three months after researchers checked in again.
Gathering and calculating the data
Surveys before the journey gathered demographic data, gleaned insight into past drug use, gauged trauma, anxiety, the instinct to hide emotions, physical health, and spiritual well-being. These questions also gained insight into the trip, asking people whether there would be a trip sitter, how much psilocybin they’d consume, and how they planned to take it. A Surrender Scale measured how likely one would be to surrender psychologically.
After the trip, the survey questions checked in about the dose taken and solidified information about the trip. A 30-item Mystical Experience Questionnaire showed just how groovy everyone got. Questions also covered difficult experiences from the trip. Lastly, respondents shared whether the trip was spiritually significant, psychologically insightful, or personally meaningful.
All this information went into the data analysis machine built by a large team of researchers, and what they found was promising.
What the surveys found
As mentioned, 81 percent of those surveyed ate magic mushrooms for self-exploration. 71.3 percent sought help with mental health, and 48 percent hoped for some form of therapy.
Of the almost 3,000 day (or night) trippers, 47 percent consumed psilocybin alone, and 25 percent were with friends who also had some shrooms. Only 16 percent had a trip sitter, a.k.a., someone sober to hang out with. Almost 70 percent opted to trip at home, 15 percent were in nature.
Most surveyed people ate dried mushrooms, some consumed tea, while six percent opted to eat mushroom-infused edibles. The average amount consumed was around three grams. Many knew they consumed Psilocybe cubensis, but 40 percent of respondents didn’t know what mushroom strains they had obtained. During the psychedelic experience, 31 percent of those surveyed consumed cannabis, 15 percent consumed caffeine, and 11 percent had alcohol.
There were some negative effects to note, though they are minimal. In the fourth survey, the first after eating the mushrooms, 0.4 percent of people sought medical care, and just over three percent reached out for psychological care.
Most medical complaints were in the realm of a headache and needing aspirin. One person lost consciousness due to the rush of losing their identity, an experience common to tripping on shrooms. As for psychological care, many reached out to friends or family. Some sought help of a counselor or therapist to integrate the lessons learned into their lives.
On a positive note, the rest of the data supported recent clinical research and studies that indicate psilocybin could be valuable for mental health. The results show that the fungi have therapeutic potential for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Before eating mushrooms, 41 percent of respondents qualified for some form of depression. By survey six, only 14 percent of those surveyed met the criteria. In survey one, 16 percent of people had “risky” drinking habits, and almost six percent qualified as dependent on alcohol. These numbers decreased “significantly,” in the last two follow-up surveys. Interestingly, those who drank less ate more psilocybin.
At the start, almost 30 percent of those surveyed had high-risk state anxiety, and 33 percent qualified as high-risk trait anxiety. By survey six, these numbers were down to 15 percent and 17 percent. In addition, people trended up in measured emotional regulation, cognitive flexibility, and spiritual well-being. People were also less apt to experience work burnout and less neurotic.
As they hoped, researchers shone a light on the individual trips of “naturalistic” psychonauts. This further shows the average experience of someone consuming psilocybin outside of the clinical space. However, researchers note that this doesn’t illuminate who is safe to try psychedelic mushrooms and who might be posing an unnecessary risk.
The survey study was comprehensive in ways but definitely had limitations. Self-reporting is subjective, and a lack of control over the psilocybin leaves room for error. Luckily, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study supports the claim that psilocybin could improve depression
Psilocybin and depression research in a controlled setting.
In another psilocybin study, researchers were testing the hypothesis that the compound would increase neuroplasticity and reduce depression scores. There were 19 participants, all diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). First, they consumed a placebo, and then four weeks later, they were given psilocybin.
After both sessions, researchers measured depression levels and used an electroencephalographic (EEG) to measure indicators of increased neuroplasticity. They measured brain activity using theta power induced by sound. Researchers conducted these tests 24 hours and 2 weeks after each session.
Theta power doubled two weeks after consuming psilocybin in most patients. The same was not true after the placebo. There was also an improvement in depressive symptoms following the dose of psilocybin.
This study supports the understanding that psilocybin can build and sustain changes in the brain. The results also indicate where the sustained effects originate in brain activity, showing potential as an antidepressant.
Magic mushrooms are uplifting spirits in all kinds of environments. Those filling out surveys at home are having mystical experiences that result in a better life. Those experiencing research studies while undergoing treatment for MDD are building new brains like superheroes. With study after study showing its benefits, the potential of psilocybin is becoming hard to ignore.