Health & Wellness

Could “Magic” Mushrooms Help Beat Depression?

A substance found in mushrooms that once had hippies taking psychedelic trips is showing promise as a the basis for a new way to treat anxiety and depression

By Lola Augustine Brown


As crazy as it may sound to those who dabbled with ’shrooms in their wild youth or those would never in a million years want to try them, several new scientific studies have shown that a single dose of the chemical psilocybin, found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, causes an immediate and lasting reduction in levels of anxiety and depression.

Although the two studies reported in the Journal of Psychomarmacology were small (with one, at NYU Langone Medical Center, involving 29 patients with life-threatening cancer and the other, at John Hopkins University, 51 patients) the results were encouraging: psilocybin was associated with reduced anxiety and depression, and the effects were long lasting, for up to eight months after the study was completed.

In the 1950s and ’60s, there was a great deal of interest in the use of psychedelic drugs to treat psychiatric problems; however, the use of magic mushrooms became part of the hippie drug culture, and they were classified as an illegal drug with no medical value in the ’70s. Research involving them stopped dead.

While psilocybin is still illegal in Canada, similar results have been reported from studies in Europe, and there’s a resurgence of interest in this area of pharmacology, with psilocybin also being studied in the treatment of addiction.

Photo: iStock/Laflor.

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