Home Mental Health & Well-Being The Growing Trend of Psilocybin-Based Therapies

The Growing Trend of Psilocybin-Based Therapies

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The therapeutic uses of psilocybin, a compound found in adaptogenic mushrooms, have garnered significant interest in recent years, particularly in the field of mental health. Research has increasingly focused on its potential to treat a variety of psychiatric conditions, often in cases where traditional treatments have been ineffective.

Consuming psilocybin mushrooms in their raw form is straightforward; they are often dried and then eaten directly or added to food. When ingested raw, the psilocybin is rapidly absorbed, and its effects can be felt within 30–60 minutes.

Alternatively, psilocybin can be incorporated into edibles. This is very easy to do with a gummy making kit and the required active ingredients. Other options involve cooking or baking the mushrooms into various food items. Common edible forms include mushroom-infused chocolates, teas, or baked goods like cookies or brownies. The process of cooking with psilocybin mushrooms typically involves finely grinding the dried mushrooms and incorporating them into the recipe. It’s important to note that excessive heat can degrade psilocybin, so recipes often call for minimal cooking times or temperatures.

Whether consumed raw or as edibles, the effects of psilocybin can vary based on dosage, individual physiology, and the specific type of mushroom. It is crucial to be aware of the legal status of psilocybin in your region, as it remains a controlled substance in many areas. Additionally, proper dosing is important to ensure a safe and controlled experience.

Depression

Recent clinical trials have brought significant attention to psilocybin, particularly its role in treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and treatment-resistant depression (TRD). A notable phase 2 study demonstrated that a single 25 mg dose of synthetic psilocybin, when combined with psychotherapy, could significantly reduce depressive symptoms after three weeks. This reduction was especially significant in individuals with TRD who had not responded to traditional antidepressants like SSRIs. These studies underscore the potential of psilocybin as a novel treatment approach in cases where conventional therapies have failed.

The therapeutic effects of psilocybin, including its antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-addictive properties, are primarily attributed to its activation of serotonin receptors in the brain. However, the precise mechanisms underlying these effects remain largely unknown. Researchers speculate that psilocybin may alter neuronal connectivity in brain regions involved in rumination, responsiveness, and emotion.

In clinical settings, psilocybin administration is conducted under stringent supervision to ensure the safety of participants. This involves a controlled environment, typically with the presence of a therapist or medical professional. Additionally, integration therapy sessions are often conducted post-treatment, allowing participants to process and integrate their experiences.

Internationally, there’s growing interest in psilocybin as a therapeutic agent. For instance, Australia has authorised psychiatrists to prescribe psilocybin for TRD. In the United States, the FDA has designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for TRD and MDD. However, it remains a Schedule I-controlled substance under federal law, reflecting ongoing legal and clinical challenges.

Despite these promising developments, the American Psychiatric Association has indicated that current evidence is insufficient to endorse psychedelics for treating psychiatric disorders outside of approved research studies. This highlights the need for further research to establish the long-term efficacy and safety of psilocybin as a therapeutic tool in psychiatry.

Addiction and substance use disorders

Psilocybin therapy’s role in treating addiction and substance use disorders, particularly alcohol and tobacco use, has been the focus of recent studies. In the case of alcohol use disorder, clinical trials have reported a significant decrease in heavy drinking days among participants. These findings indicate that psilocybin could effectively reduce excessive alcohol consumption, potentially offering long-term benefits.

For tobacco addiction, psilocybin therapy has shown even more striking results. Studies have found that a substantial number of participants achieved complete abstinence from tobacco, a notable achievement given the high relapse rates associated with this addiction. These treatments often combine psilocybin administration with cognitive behavioural therapy, emphasising a holistic approach.

The effectiveness of psilocybin in treating addictions is thought to stem from its ability to facilitate deep psychological insights and emotional processing, addressing the underlying causes of addictive behaviours. Moreover, it is believed to induce neurobiological changes that disrupt established patterns of addiction.

It’s important to note that these treatments are administered in controlled clinical settings, ensuring participant safety and maximising therapeutic potential. Despite these promising results, further research is necessary to fully understand psilocybin’s long-term effects and optimise treatment protocols for different types of addiction​​.

Other mental health conditions

Psilocybin is being studied for its potential benefits in treating various mental health conditions beyond depression and addiction. Research into its effects on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is still in its early stages, but there is optimism about its ability to reduce symptoms due to its interaction with serotonin receptors. For Alzheimer’s disease, psilocybin’s potential to enhance neuroplasticity and memory is under exploration, which could help mitigate cognitive decline.

In the realm of eating disorders, psilocybin is being considered for its capacity to facilitate emotional healing and psychological insights, addressing the complex emotional and cognitive aspects of these disorders. Early studies are investigating how it could be integrated into treatment plans.

Perhaps one of the most promising areas is its use in alleviating psychological distress in cancer patients, particularly in reducing anxiety and depression associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment. Psilocybin, in these cases, is often used alongside psychological support in psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions.

While the evidence supporting psilocybin’s use in these varied conditions is growing, the field requires more comprehensive research to fully establish its efficacy and safety. The legal and regulatory status of psilocybin as a Schedule I substance also poses significant challenges for research and clinical application​​.

Takeaway

Despite these promising developments, it’s important to note that psilocybin remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law in the US, and its use is still surrounded by legal and clinical challenges. While states like Oregon and Colorado have moved towards legalising or decriminalising psilocybin for therapeutic uses, it’s still not widely available for clinical use. Furthermore, the American Psychiatric Association has stated that there is currently inadequate scientific evidence to endorse psychedelics, including psilocybin, for the treatment of psychiatric disorders outside of approved research studies.

While the therapeutic potential of psilocybin is substantial and backed by a growing number of studies, its use in clinical practice is still in the early stages, and more research is required to fully understand its effects, mechanisms, and long-term implications​​​​​​​​​​​​.




Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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