Psychedelic drugs have been coming back into the spotlight of respectability lately. In the last few years, scientists have been researching substances such as psilocybin to figure out the inner workings of the human brain and how to treat illnesses like depression.
While it’s still not exactly clear how these drugs affect the brain, researchers believe that the psychedelic experience itself could help individuals change their perspective on life and behavior, especially when it comes to drug addiction or depression.
For children of the ‘60s, the idea that psychedelic drugs have positive, mind-expanding effects isn’t new. For thousands of years, magic mushrooms have been used in cultures worldwide! In the 1960s, leading medical institutions in the U.S. and internationally started looking to the medical benefits of psychedelic drugs, but a fear sparked by 60’s counterculture led to an extreme backlash that stopped progress, as the United States, France, and the UK have all classified psilocybin and other psychedelics as illegal drugs.
Laws and stigma have put a kibosh on this vital research for decades, but new studies are starting to change the way medical experts and individuals think about the power of magic mushrooms.
How Psilocybin Resets the Brain
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and NYU are finding that the effects of psilocybin have a positive impact on combating alcohol and nicotine addiction, mental illness, and anxiety and depression. Studies are also being conducted to examine how psychedelics relieve stress for those with terminal illnesses.
These conditions appear to be linked to the circuitry of the brain and can become “stamped in,” becoming automatic responses that are difficult to prevent. Studies have shown that a single dose of magic mushrooms seems to reset the circuitry of the brain. The positive effects can also last long after the psychoactive effects wear off, often for months following the trip.
Using MRIs, scientists have watched the effects of psilocybin on the brain. When an individual intakes the drug, the hyperactive parts of the brain typically begin to shut down. Often referred to as the “orchestrating centers” of the brain, these areas control emotions such as anxiety and worry. Simultaneously, other parts of the brain suddenly wake up, causing new emotions, memories, and wishes to become apparent to the individual.
This reaction essentially returns people to a child-like state, which is why those on psilocybin report having a greater sense of connection to the world, other people, and the ability to see the “bigger picture” around them. Essentially, as lead researcher Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris at Imperial College described it, magic mushrooms more or less “shake the snow globe” of our minds and can help people who suffer from disorders that involve rigid patterns of thinking.
What Studies Have Revealed So Far About Magic Mushrooms:
An Imperial College study shows that a single dose has the potential to create changes in brain activity and reduce symptoms for weeks, even for patients whose depression had previously been treatment-resistant. The findings were so unexpected and substantial that researchers are currently moving ahead with more robust studies to test psilocybin against leading antidepressants.
Addiction is notoriously difficult to treat. A study showed that 80% of long-term, heavy smokers had managed to quit smoking six months later after two psilocybin treatments. A similar effect was seen in alcohol-dependent patients as well, as they demonstrated a significant reduction in drinking behaviors over 8 months after only one or two psilocybin sessions.
Enhancing Spiritual Life
Mystical experiences are at the very center of most religions, and researchers at NYU and Johns Hopkins are studying clergy members to compare the neurobiology of psilocybin sessions and religious experiences. While the study isn’t published yet, so far the research reports that a psilocybin dose has a similar effect on the brain compared to what religious leaders experience during meditation retreats.
It has long been thought that after the age of 30, a person’s personality is pretty much set in stone. However, new studies show that a single dose of psilocybin has a positive, possibly permanent, effect on a person’s personality and has the potential to make them more creative, curious, and generous.
Many psilocybin studies focus on patients who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer to measure the impact of end-of-life anxiety. According to a study by NYU and Johns Hopkins, 80% of cancer patients showed high reductions in anxiety that lasted up to seven months after a dose of psilocybin.
Challenging the Legality of Psilocybin
The evidence is mounting that magic mushrooms do have a positive impact on a variety of disorders, but because many of these studies are small, more testing is still needed to pinpoint the exact effects of psilocybin on the brain. However, these findings are extremely promising and call the classification of psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug into question. In fact, it is already starting to be challenged in the U.S., as Denver might become the first city in the states to decriminalize magic mushrooms.
Aside from the positive benefits studies are showing, the 2017 Global Drug Survey concluded that magic mushrooms are one of the safest recreational drugs in the world. Psilocybin requires less post-usage medical treatment than alcohol, LSD, cocaine, or opioids. There are also no significant abuse concerns, as magic mushrooms are non-addictive and non-toxic to the body’s organs.
The Future of Wellness Trips and Mushroom Retreats
While not yet legal in the United States, pioneers worldwide provide all-inclusive magic mushroom retreats from Ibiza to Bali. For example, MycoMeditations hosts weeklong retreats on a private beach in Jamaica and provides visitors with a luxury experience as well as a spiritual journey. The exclusive Alquimia Center of Healing Arts in the Colombian jungle provides an education on Amazonian medicine and enlightenment through expert-led psychedelic sessions.
While these types of retreats might not be “high” on everyone’s list, non-psychedelic mushrooms are playing a starring role in medicine and beauty treatments as well. Mushrooms are a natural source of Vitamin D, beta-glucans, and polysaccharides. They can help to stabilize blood sugar and fight inflammation. Some species of mushrooms, like maitake and lions mane, help the human body resist biological, chemical, and emotional stressors.
It’s no surprise that mushrooms have long been considered a key component in Asian beauty products. Mushrooms have been hitting the shelves for years in skincare, cosmetics, and haircare lines and are just now making their way globally. While mushrooms might be considered a trend right now, the rediscovery of mushrooms-as-medicine is being backed by science.
Choose to Have More Options in Your Healthcare
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Our care coordinators will guide you through the process while providing transparency every step of the way. Traveling should be a life-changing experience. Start your care journey with us, and contact mymedchoices. I wanna get better!