Imagine if there was a drug that could cure your depression and anxiety and give you a renewed sense of purpose in life with just a single dose. It turns out that such a drug may have been hiding in plain sight all along: psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms.
Users of magic mushrooms have long reported that taking the drug can offer mental health benefits, but now two new studies, one from New York University and one from Johns Hopkins University, seem to have corroborated those reports, according to Discover.
Both studies looked at the effects of moderate doses of psilocybin on patients with advanced-stage cancers, individuals experiencing the depression and anxiety that come with the prospect of dying. Remarkably, as many as 80 percent of study participants reported significant alleviation of negative thoughts. In fact, a majority of them rated the psilocybin experience as the singular or top five most spiritually significant, most personally meaningful experience of their entire lives.
Even more impressive, the drug's benefits lasted anywhere from seven weeks to eight months, all from a single dose. That's as life-changing as it gets for patients for whom death is a very near and present reality.
“I have a feeling that I tapped into something bigger than me... it did feel like it was connecting me to the universe,” claimed Carol Vincent, a participant in the Johns Hopkins study, speaking to The Atlantic.
What about the negative side effects that you've heard listed as consequences of many other psychiatric medications? With psilocybin, no serious adverse effects were reported by even a single participant. This information agrees with previous studies of psilocybin over the past 20 years.
So why has it taken researchers so long to get on board with psilocybin? Ever since it got labeled as a Schedule-I drug, the same class as heroin, researchers have largely stayed away. But it has now started to garner renewed attention, in spite of the red tape that needs to be torn off to gain research approval.
Even with the positive study results, it could be years before psychoactive drugs like psilocybin can overcome their stigma and receive approval for medical use. In the meantime, researchers urge people interested in the benefits of psilocybin to avoid self-medicating. These experiments were performed in a controlled environment, the positive effects of which can't be guaranteed for unspecified doses, from unapproved sources.