How psychedelic mushrooms may rewire the brain to ease depression, anxiety and more

How psychedelic mushrooms may rewire the brain to ease depression, anxiety and more

Psychedelic mushrooms, known colloquially as shrooms, Alice, or magic mushrooms, have a variety of slang names, but mycologist Paul Stamets believes it’s time to adopt a more mature terminology. According to Stamets, these substances are far from being just party drugs; they are life-changing and nonaddictive.

Clinical trials suggest that one or two doses of psilocybin in a therapeutic setting can significantly alleviate treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. The FDA has even labeled psilocybin as a breakthrough medicine due to its potential.

Psilocybin, which converts into the psychoactive compound psilocin in the intestines, shows promise in treating cluster headaches, anxiety, anorexia, OCD, and substance abuse. Neurologist Richard Isaacson highlights psilocybin’s potential due to its relatively good safety profile and the ability to study it in double-blind clinical trials.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD work by enhancing brain connectivity and disrupting normal thought patterns, which can be particularly therapeutic for individuals with depression. This brain “disorganization” helps break the cycle of negative, self-critical thoughts common in depression.

Additionally, psychedelics promote neuroplasticity, helping neurons grow new connections, which could solidify positive changes in the brain. SSRIs also increase neuroplasticity, but studies indicate psilocybin may be more effective in improving well-being and brain connectivity.

Microdosing, or taking tiny amounts of psilocybin, has gained popularity for maintaining brain health and creativity. Stamets advocates for this approach, integrating it with substances like niacin and Lion’s Mane mushroom for added benefits. However, scientific evidence on microdosing’s efficacy remains inconclusive.

While psychedelics can offer profound benefits, they also carry risks such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, individuals with a history of psychosis or on SSRIs may not be suitable candidates for psychedelic therapy. Ongoing research aims to develop drugs that mimic the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics without the hallucinogenic effects, potentially transforming mental health treatment.

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