Psilocybin is the naturally occurring psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms which are often used as classic psychoactive drugs.
LONDON-A hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms can "reset" the brains of people with untreatable depression, raising hopes of a future treatment, scans suggest. The number of participants was quite small, and it lacked a control group, which should have received a placebo.
Magic mushrooms may effectively treat depression by rebooting the activity of key brain circuits in patients suffering from depression.
While the sample size was limited, the scientists concluded that psilocybin is promising for treatment-resistant depression, especially when used to "reset" the brain, with blood flow back to state it was in prior to depression. "Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy". "Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary kick start they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a reset analogy", Carhart-Harris added.
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Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients a week later.
A recreational drug beloved by Dead Heads and Burning Man attendees could one day become a first-line treatment for clinical depression and a viable replacement for antidepressants such as SSRIs. Nineteen of those people had brain scans done immediately before the first dose was administered, and then again after the second, larger dose was given. The researchers noted critical neurological changes including activity in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain and which is involved in producing feelings of stress and fear. Another brain network, which has previously been linked to depression, showed increased stability.
The patients reported an immediate mood improvement described by some as an "afterglow" effect that lasted up to five weeks.
The authors warn that while the initial findings are encouraging, the research is at an early stage and that patients with depression should not attempt to self-medicate, as the team provided a special therapeutic context for the drug experience and things may go awry if the extensive psychological component of the treatment is neglected.