May 18, 2016
Psilocybin, the compound responsible for making mushrooms "magic," can help treat severe depression when other therapies fail, according to a small British study.
Scientists gave two doses of the psychedelic compound to six men and six women who had been struggling with depression for most of their adult lives. Five of them had tried psilocybin before. In two sessions a week apart, the patients got to relax on a bed in a low-lit room while listening to music, with two psychiatrists watching over them.
While the sample size is small, the results were dramatic. All the patients reported some reduction in depression symptoms for at least three weeks. Eight reached "complete remission" of their depression symptoms within a single week; five of those patients were still in remission after three months.
Not only that but the side effects were very mild, for example, temporary anxiety or nausea.
This isn't the first time scientists have seen psilocybin work its "magic." In previous small studies, the fungal ingredient helped smokers quit tobacco, alcoholics reduce their drinking and cancer patients find relief from anxiety and depression.
However, researchers don't want members of the public rushing out to try magic mushrooms themselves. The patients in this study only took two doses of the drug over the course of a week, and they had access to support from psychiatrists who watched over them during the entire psychedelic episode.
"I wouldn't want members of the public thinking they can treat their own depressions by picking their own magic mushrooms. That kind of approach could be risky," lead author Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris told Reuters.