Magic Mushrooms May Help Complex Mental Disorders

From time immemorial, a great variety of mind-altering plants and fungi have been used ritualistically and medicinally by cultures the world over.  In our modern age however, the use of many of these plants and fungi, including cannabis, peyote, iboga and so-called ‘magic-mushrooms’ is illegal.  In the United States, many have been classified as Schedule 1 drugs—deeming these substances as having no accepted medicinal benefit and even potentially harmful to one’s health.

New research about the potential medicinal use of ‘magic mushrooms’ however suggests that perhaps the very reason for their illegality—that is, ingestion of the alkaloid psilocybin, present in this variety of fungi, produces subjective, psychedelic hallucinations which distort one’s sense of “reality”—might prove to be an effective therapy in the treatment of complicated mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  One of the proposed reasons for this is simply that after the experience, one’s attitude towards oneself, or towards an addiction for example, changes and may free someone to think differently. And of course, as the studies suggest, there is a biological/physiological component to this subjective freeing-up/ change of attitude.

 

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Studies conducted by Dr. Robert Carhart-Harris, from Imperial College London, in which he scanned the brains of 30 healthy volunteers after injecting them with psilocybin, found that the more primitive regions of the brain, associated with emotional thinking, became more active and the brain's "default mode network," associated with high-level thinking, self-consciousness and introspection, was much less active.  Certainly high-level thinking, self-consciousness and introspection are not inherently good or bad/positive or negative, but this “default mode network” is associated with habitual thinking patterns, often locking those with mental health conditions like depression and OCD into deleterious thoughts and behaviors.  Although the mechanisms behind the changes are not well understood, professor Roland Griffith of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains that "With psilocybin people feel reorganized [after therapy] and the nature of the reorganization is such that there are effects on attitudes towards addiction… People say their addiction doesn't seem compelling anymore."