Shrooms ‘could treat depression’
Clinical use of psilocybin, the hallucinogen in magic mushrooms, is being debated again after two separate studies showed that it could be used to treat people suffering from depression.
In one study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists gave psilocybin to 30 people and scanned their brains. The scans revealed that the psychedelic compound was linked to reduced activity in regions of the brain associated with high-level reasoning. The second study, to be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, included 10 healthy volunteers and found that their memories were much more vivid, visual, and happy while under the influence.
Psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, who gave a briefing about the findings said: “Psychedelics are thought of as ‘mind-expanding’ drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity … But, surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas.”
However, Nutt cautioned that the new research was very preliminary and involved only small numbers of people.
“We’re not saying go out there and eat magic mushrooms,” he explained. “But … this drug has such a fundamental impact on the brain that it’s got to be meaningful – it’s got to be telling us something about how the brain works. So we should be studying it and optimising it if there’s a therapeutic benefit.”
Shrooms are known for their trippy chemical effects on the brain, and Psilocybin was classified as a Class-A drug under the Drugs Act 2005, placing it in the same category as cocaine and heroin.