‘Magic’ mushrooms is a generic term that includes any mushroom that contains psilocybin, a chemical compound that, when digested and transformed into psilocin, produces psychedelic experiences and an altered state of consciousness. In this sense, they have been used by humans for approximately 7,000 years in various religious rituals and by a large number of cultures throughout history. Therefore, it depends on where you look at it, its use has both positive and negative connotations.
This hallucinogenic substance has been studied for years as a possible treatment for patients with depression, and this research has now been salvaged to determine if it could be a treatment for people with medication-resistant depression. Specifically, it has been verified that it stimulates the growth of neural connections lost in depression.
Improves mood and reduces anxiety
In various previous studies it has been found that this drug has low toxicity, and that its application in small doses can also improve mood and reduce anxiety in people going through traumatic situations, for example in the case of terminally ill patients.
It was the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann who developed the first synthetic method to produce a psilocybin-based drug in the 1960s, after purifying its active ingredient from the Mexican Psilocybe fungus. The study now affirms that this psychedelic substance is capable of reestablishing neural networks that depression destroys, putting the brain back into operation to get out of the state of lethargy generated by this psychosocial pathology.
A clear improvement in behavior
Among the effects observed, the researchers highlighted that the mice affected by depression showed a clear improvement in their behavior, registering at the same time a greater activity of the most important neurotransmitters. In addition to verifying the increase in neural connections after psilocybin administration in rodents, they also noted that the new connections were larger and stronger.
The psychedelic drug increases the density of dendritic spines, tiny bumps on neurons that are vital for transmitting information to other nerve cells. In depression, this type of neural connections is considerably reduced.
In the study, the state of depression of the patients is evaluated, the patients were given 25 mg of psilocybin, always with psychological support while the effects of the drug lasted. One day and 5 weeks later, the depression test was performed again. On that occasion, images of patients’ brains revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and long-lasting reductions in depressive symptoms, with trial participants reporting benefits that lasted up to five weeks after treatment.