Magic Mushrooms Treating Depression

I went today to a lecture by Robin Cahart-Harris at the University of Oxford Psychiatry Department (where I do stuff in my guise as a research foundation director). Robin was visiting the department from Imperial College London.  The title of his talk was “Psilocybin for depression: outcomes, mechanisms and future plans”.

Robin is interested in the potential use of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of depression. He summarised recent data from his department’s psilocybin depression study (the psychedelic component of magic mushrooms), and outlined plans for further research into whether this could be used to treat people with depression.

His subjects had been patients for who other forms of treatment had failed.  They were understandably enthusiastic about this new approach, and the data indicated a definite improvement, that appeared to last – at least for the six months of the study.  Neuroimaging was used to identify the brain processes involved.

Robin has studied the shamanic and spiritual aspects of magic mushrooms, and although trying very hard not to use the word “trip”, let it slip just the once.  He feels that the two “trips” that entailed the treatment – one mild trip, then a week of so later, after some four hours of psychological preparation, a hefty dose of Psilocybin that can only have provided a good old-fashioned, full-on trip.

The patients talked afterwards of feeling more engaged with the world and with other people, having shut down their emotions and retreated into themselves; and of real, tangible beauty that previously they’d been able to see but not to feel themselves.   This seems to speak to the teachings of various religions and contemplative disciplines, in which connecting to the universe and losing the limitations of “self” are the goals of long and strenuous practice.

Robin talked of “Resetting” – and even showed a large red “Reset” button on one of his slides.  This is akin to the desired effect of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), the deep brain stimulation being pioneered by my Co-Director Prof Morten Kringelbach,  and some new work we’re looking at in the USA using magnetism.  This is of course to use computer terminology to describe something organic, that isn’t (probably) anything like rebooting a computer.

Robin talked of people self-medicating using psychedelics. He was questioned about similar use of the anesthetic ketamin, and said this didn’t appear to be how this drug is in fact used recreationally.

This is clearly not something people can do at home…  Two psychologists supervise each of the trips, for which the patient has received some four hours of preparative counselling.  Plus the drug administration is dead accurate;  a far cry from the dodgy “shrooms available to the most of the psychedelically inclined.

Hugh McManners

Oxford-based singer-songwriter and guitarist, with a love of the blues, psychedelic rock and the poetry of song. Past lives in Australia and the British Army; and a forty-year career as a writer.

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1 Response

  1. Hugh McManners says:

    An interesting FaceBook discussion on this. It would be great if people could respond here, so that others – from Google+, Twitter etc could also contribute and receive responses – as opposed to the fragmentation of responses over several different social media sites.

    But here’s the FB discussion (so far):

    Choose File
    Hugh McManners Music
    Hugh McManners Music Very interesting, and you are completely right. But I have to issue the health warning, as not everybody is as sensible as you. But hang on, you also jump into rivers? (Just joking – I get that too – lots of evidence for its benefit. Sea swimming e…See more
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
    Vicki Hudson
    Vicki Hudson Yes, the health warning is important, also the legal aspect of course. I find the cold water therapy equally effective, the whole process of the walk down to the river which is beautiful, immersing myself under the waterfall for 5 -10 minutes or so lifts my spirit like nothing else can. You have to prepare, i invested in a dry robe to change in and make sure i get dry and warm afterwards, i find the river kinder than the sea at this time of year… surfing sounds good!
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 1 hr
    Hugh McManners Music

    Write a reply…

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    Vicki Hudson
    Vicki Hudson I have tried this at home and it works! I read the research and was impressed/curious, so as Liberty caps grow in abundance here thought i’d try micro dosing, it’s as effective if not more than the anti depressant i was taking, and somehow feels more wholesome using something that grows on the doorstep, mother nature provides! Check out the research for cold water therapy, i’ve been jumping in the rivers also!!!
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 2 hrs
    Levi Saunders
    Levi Saunders Be careful with liberty caps,I once ate about 50,and then had some speed(!) which took me into a 3 day long mental breakdown. I’m OK now though…
    Like · Reply · Message · 1 hr
    Vicki Hudson
    Vicki Hudson micro dosing is different, you take just 0.2grm so no noticeable effect, but a subtle change takes place in your brain chemistry which helps to alleviate depression…..
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 2 · 1 hr

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