Could Psychoactive Mushrooms Lead to a Happier Life?

illuminated keyhole at the end of a hallwayMany now-illegal drugs were once widely accepted medical treatments. According to a new study, those who claim that hallucinogenic drugs make them happier might actually be on to something. Researchers at the Psychiatric Hospital of Zurich have shown that psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, might reduce negative emotions in the brain.

Brain Regions on Mushrooms

Negative thoughts—and the inability to stop them—play a key role in depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Previous research has suggested that an uptick in activity in the amygdala, a brain region that affects memories and emotional reactions, can increase the prevalence of negative thoughts by strengthening neural signals associated with these thoughts. Researchers wanted to know if mushrooms could reduce the severity or frequency of these thoughts, and turned to fMRI imaging to find out.

They found that even a small dose of psilocybin changed activity in the amygdala and limbic system, thereby reducing the process of negative stimuli. The study’s authors argue that altering amygdala activity is one way to reduce negative emotions, and that psilocybin is an effective way to change what happens in the amygdala.

The researchers plan to conduct their next study on people with depression, since previous research has shown that those who live with depression are more likely to notice and react to negative stimuli. If psilocybin can help that group control their negative thoughts—as researchers suspect it will—then it could be a breakthrough in understanding and treating depression.

A Potential Hallucinogenic Cure for Depression?

It’s unlikely that magic mushrooms will become a treatment for depression anytime soon. They’re currently classified as Schedule I illegal drugs, a classification reserved for substances with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for addiction.

This isn’t the first study to find that illegal drugs may help some mental health conditions. Previous research has found that the street drug known as ecstasy (MDMA) may reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), for example. This and similar studies shed light on the way mental health issues affect the brain, and may eventually lead to new pharmaceutical treatments for mental health concerns.

References:

  1. Psilocybin inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain. (2014, May 7). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507095756.htm
  2. Zarembo, A. (2014, March 15). Exploring therapeutic effects of MDMA on post-traumatic stress. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2014/mar/15/local/la-me-mdma-20140316

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  • Linda D

    Linda D

    May 12th, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    you can’t be seriously advocating for this. i think that they were made illegal for a reason?

  • Roy

    Roy

    May 13th, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    If the mushrooms change how you feel about certains aspects of life when you are on them that is one thing but do they have any long term and lasting effects on your overall mental health? My uspicion would be that they may help to dull some of the pain and help you forget about the depression for a while but surely this is not something that is lasting after the high is gone. We are all of the time looking for treatments that are healthy and going to be beneficial to our long term health- are we sure that this is the road that we want to go down? Haven’t there already been times when there was experimentation with LSD for mental health improvement? I am guessing that that didn’t work because I don’t really hear that many people ate doing that anymore so I would wonder the same thing about this.

  • SA

    SA

    May 13th, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    And not only negative emotions it helps. It enhances your entire outlook on life and living. Reducing your ego to nothing allowing you to be who you are.

  • Max

    Max

    May 13th, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    I can see both sides of the argument, good for some and not so good for others.
    Has anyone really sat down though and determined if the pros of the treatment really outweigh the cons? I mean, if they do then it is certainly worth taking a hard look at. But if there are still a lot of dengers involved with the act then that has to be studied pretty carefully.
    And who is to say what looks good on paper today still will translate to good for that person tomorrow? I would need some valid proof that there is lasting change that is not going to harm me in any way before I could personally sign on to this kind of approach.

  • Tanya

    Tanya

    May 16th, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    You can see that this begins to lead us down a very dangerous path of we are to believe that this can really be of help to some with certain mental health issues and concerns. First marijuana was legalized in some states and now we have to accept that more illegal drugs could actually have health benefits? If that was the case then why was all of this made illegal in the first place? There has to be some medical reason for that, and I don’t think that there could be enough good from this to then say opps, we made a mistake, let’s make them all legal again. I think that we kind of froget about why this can about and when you look at the good that could happen versus the bad it is a certainty that there is far more harm from these things. I don’t think that I would want to give it a try unless it was a last resort.

  • terrence

    terrence

    May 20th, 2014 at 1:47 AM

    You’ve got to be kidding me on some of these comments. Listen people, psilocybin mushrooms were made illegal NOT to protect us but rather to keep YOU fixed on CORPORATE drugs. If you haven’t already noticed.. the pharmaceutical industry is HIGHLY motivated by monetary value rather than curing ailments. I’m not saying that they are completely fraudulent but you have to realize that the system is based on money. The pharmaceutical companies fought long and hard to keep cannabis illegal WHY? Because it is a SAFE and EFFECTIVE treatment for MANY ailments that one can GROW AT HOME. Well if more people are growing this great natural medicine then LESS people are supporting the pharmaceutical industry and they lose money. Why is it ‘suddenly’ acceptable as a medicine when the psychoactive compound THC is put into pill form and called Marinol? Simply because in that form it allows the industry to PROFIT on the drug. There is also a major financial incentives in the law system and such. Did you know more people die every year from prescription drugs than the deaths from ALL ILLEGAL DRUGS COMBINED? WELL NOW YOU DO. Something to consider.. by the way, before you start bashing a substance while you sit back and pop a few Prozac or xanax, do some research for once. Psilocybin is less toxic than aspirin. Less dangerous for your body than alcohol. Remember the government doesn’t want you off of drugs…. THEY JUST WANT YOU ON CORPORATE DRUGS TO FUND THE SYSTEM.

  • Kevin

    Kevin

    May 23rd, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    I agree with Terrance, both my wife and i have suffered from depression and have tried corporate drug after corporate drug only to deal with the negative side effects and very few positives. To overdose on psilocybin you would have to eat over 3 pounds. Do your own research and make your own decisions. Stop listening to everything BigPharm tells you! I haven’t yet tried mushrooms but i am going to as soon as i can.

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