New research has shown tantalizing hints of the potential usefulness of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs in treating depression. However, as welcome as that news is, it’s not a go-ahead for people to attempt to treat depression with mushrooms. “Magic mushrooms,” or “shrooms,” are the source of the potent hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin. Cultures throughout the world have consumed psilocybin-containing mushrooms for millennia as part of spiritual and religious ceremonies, and people in the modern era continue to do so, often recreationally.
It’s not a good idea to attempt to self-medicate depression with mushrooms. Although psilocybin is rarely physically harmful, it’s well-known to produce intense, often negative psychological effects like paranoia and psychosis. The science behind the effectiveness of psilocybin depression treatment is being examined and comprehensive human trials have not been conducted yet. The studies being currently touted as “proof” of psilocybin’s effectiveness in treating depression have very small test group sizes. They also rely on chemically refined and purified psilocybin, which is a far cry from what recreational users might have access to. The lab conditions under which psilocybin has been tested cannot be generalized to that of a home user.
Self-medication is unwise when trying to overcome depression. The levels of psilocybin in mushrooms aren’t standardized. The quality and purity of the drug are also highly variable when found on the street.
Pros and Cons of Shrooms for Depression
People are quick to point out the side-effects of antidepressants, yet mushrooms also have serious and unpleasant side-effects. These side-effects can be serious.
Potential side-effects of psilocybin use include:
- Hallucinations, both visual and auditory, that are often disturbing or even terrifying
- Depersonalization—a sense of not being in your body, being only a detached observer
- Derealization—an altered perception of one’s surroundings in which nothing seems real
- Distressing thoughts
- Severe vomiting
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. This condition causes changes in a person’s perceptions that can last for weeks.
As well, people who self-medicate depression with mushrooms do so without the support of a mental healthcare professional to help them. The experience of using magic mushrooms can be traumatic if the user experiences a “bad trip,” and without a trained mental health professional to help process the event, outcomes are poor. There’s also a legal risk to using magic mushrooms for depression in the US. Magic mushrooms are illegal in the US. Possessing or using them is against the law.
It’s going to take years of research before psilocybin is approved for use in treating depression, if ever. There are many other treatments for depression that are effective, including treatment with antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
There are better, research-supported means of eliminating depression. Psychotherapy and medication reduce and eliminate depressive symptomatology. As well, newer therapies like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) are non-invasive and produce lasting results.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.
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