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October 06, 2023

Microdosing psychedelic mushrooms may reduce stress and compulsivity, new study shows

The findings add to a growing body of research pointing to the cognitive and therapeutic value of psilocybin

Microdosing the psychedelic drug psilocybin may make people more resilient to stress and reduce compulsive behavior, according to a recently-published study.

The results showed that small, repeated doses of psilocybin administered to rats made them more resilient to stress and caused the animals to groom themselves less frequently, which is a behavior that scientists consider to be analogous to compulsive actions in humans. 

To mimic stress as experienced by humans, the researchers administered multiple injections that normally spark a stress response in rats. After being given small doses of psilocybin, the rats were more resilient to that stress. 

The study's findings are preliminary and have yet to be validated in human trials, but they nonetheless show promise and, as the authors of the paper put it, "establish a well-validated regimen for further experiments probing the effects of repeated low doses of psilocybin."

The study is the latest research showing the various potential cognitive and therapeutic benefits of the psychedelic drug. In July, the results of a first-of-its-kind clinical trial showed that psilocybin mushrooms had positive therapeutic benefits for female anorexia patients. In that study, 40% of women participating saw a "statistically significant" reduction in anorexia symptoms after ingesting psilocybin. 

"I believe the serotonergic psychedelics have therapeutic potential across many diagnostic boundaries via their ability to induce lasting beneficial changes in perspective, outlook and thought processes," Dr. Jason Wallach, a pharmaceutical sciences professor specializing in psychedelic medicine at St. Joseph's University, said when the anorexia study came out.  

Scientific interest in the mental health benefits of psychedelics is on the rise. After a decades-long lull due to the restrictions of U.S. federal drug policy, there has been a resurgence of research into the potential psychiatric and therapeutic benefits of psychedelic substances like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine in recent years. That research is yielding a mountain of evidence that psychedelics can be effective in treating various mental illnesses. 

A 2022 Johns Hopkins University study showing that psilocybin can alleviate symptoms of depression for up to a year is one example of the research into the potential mental health benefits of psilocybin. Meanwhile, MDMA has been shown to be very effective in treating severe post-traumatic stress disorder, with researchers from a 2021 study calling it "a potential breakthrough treatment" that should be researched more extensively.

Psychedelic medicine also has started commanding the attention of policymakers. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its first guidance for psychedelic drug trials, which outlined suggested considerations for research into psychedelic substances like MDMA, LSD and psilocybin. A few days later, New Jersey lawmakers began mulling the possibility of legalizing psilocybin for the purposes of treating mental illness and addiction and held informational hearings on the subject a year after a decriminalization bill was introduced in Trenton. 

To date, only Oregon has decriminalized psilocybin for any purpose, with five other states allowing the substance in select municipalities.

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