Depression & Psilocybin

Conclusive Evidence says that Micro-dosing with Psilocybin can treat Depression.

Depression is a mental disorder usually categorised by feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness that persist over time. Most of the days seem bleak, and for some, nights exacerbate the symptoms. 

From the scorching countries in the middle east to the shimmering cities of the USA, depression finds a way to impact the lives of people worldwide. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people are affected by depression worldwide. Furthermore, due to COVID 19, depressive symptoms have amplified by three-folds in the US population,  a study confirmed. WHO also predicted that ‘depression’ could be the second leading cause of disability in the world by 2020. Although more women suffer from depression than men, researchers call ‘depression’ a global pandemic.

Causes of Depression

  • Genetic: Researchers have yet to come to a unified answer about the root cause of depression. That is because different studies have found different causes of depression. Some researchers say that depression is genetically influenced. For instance, in some studies, researchers analysed the DNA material of depressed individuals. They found that 40 % of the participants had one particular chromosome, “3p25-26”. It was concluded that 3p25-26 was responsible for depression. This is consistent with other research that suggests that members from the same family are likely to have depression. Identical twin studies contribute to the majority of these studies. Researchers studying twins in different environments have concluded that regardless of environmental circumstances, twins ( with a history of parental depression) are highly likely to experience depression.  
  • Environment: Other researchers have found the environmental factors to be responsible for depression. Simply put, they changed the ecological circumstances of some individuals suffering from depression and found a significant reduction in their symptoms when placed in another setting. 
  • The third hypothesis suggests that depression is caused due to the lower levels of neurotransmitters in one’s brain. Higher levels of the neurotransmitter like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are responsible for good moods. When researchers gave antidepressants to individuals with lower levels of these neurotransmitters, their attitudes elevated. This is because antidepressants help in reabsorption of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Therefore, they concluded that depression is caused due to a chemical imbalance in our brains. 
  • Sometimes major life events like a divorce or death of a loved one can also give rise to depression.

Regardless of the cause, depression is a severe mental disorder affecting people worldwide. Besides, researchers are yet to find a definitive cure for depression.

Signs of Depression 

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM –5), a book that defines and classifies mental disorders has laid down the criteria for identifying Major Depressive Disorder(MDD). The following are the seven symptoms that people with depression can manifest : 

  1. Hopeless and helpless perspective on life. The person may indulge in self-hatred and feelings of worthlessness.
  2. Reduced pleasure or interest in almost all daily activities. These activities include hobbies, sports and socialising. Besides, the symptoms of major depression can include decreased sex drive. 
  3. Loss of energy or fatigue nearly every day. A significant reason why people lack interest in doing things they love is because of the overwhelming feeling of fatigue. 
  4. Recurring thoughts of death and contemplating suicide
  5. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day. 
  6.  Significant weight loss or weight gain based on the appetite. Some people may use food as a coping mechanism, and therefore binge eat. Some people will not get hungry at all. A change of more than 5 % in body weight is common. 
  7. Indecisiveness and diminished capacity to think or to concentrate.

Note: to qualify for Major Depressive Disorder, five of those symptoms mentioned above should be present in the individual for at least two weeks.

Although effective pharmacotherapies for depression are accessible, these drugs produce adverse effects and little efficacy. That is why research over the past two decades has concentrated on the natural herbs to reduce the depressive symptoms in patients. One herb that has received tremendous attention is Psilocybin a.k.a magic mushroom.

Introduction to Psilocybin

Psilocybin has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and ceremonial purposes by indigenous people. The famous American ethnobotanist and acclaimed psychedelic advocate, Terrance McKenna, explained a logically consistent theory in his book  “Food of the Gods.” He expressed that our ancestors in Africa used psilocybin for visual effects and to assist in hunting. Furthermore, he elucidated that psilocybin helped the primitive brain in information processing. McKenna boldly claims that the gradual advancements in technologies, culture and spirituality are because of the ingestion of magic mushrooms. These claims are supported by numerous experts worldwide. Researchers are now beginning to find evidence for this theory. 

What is Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a hallucinogen that activates the serotonin receptors in the brains. It is obtained from dried mushrooms and produces significant changes in consciousness for a few hours after ingestion. Meaning, psilocybin produces psychologically transformative states of awareness that can help explore the world differently. 

Evidence for the efficacy of Psilocybin for Depression

A study  (4th November 2020) conducted by the researchers in Imperial College London revealed that psilocybin tremendously reduces the symptoms of depression.  In this study, 19 depressive patients on whom conventional methods like psychotherapy ( 5-6 talking therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and pharmacotherapy (5 to 11 types of antidepressants)  had failed, were given psilocybin. Researchers found that there was significant brain activity in regions that are associated with diminished depressive symptoms. Psilocybin, in this study, worked almost immediately as the changes in the brain were seen after one day.

Some of the participants explained feeling “reset” after the intervention. They felt like their brains had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive. Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, the lead researcher, says that “Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states.” 

Another study that supports the conclusions mentioned above was conducted on 51 cancer patients. Naturally, cancer patients go through tremendous and clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. These mood disorders exacerbate the problems and are associated with prolonged hospitalisation,  decreased quality of life and increased suicidality in cancer patients. When micro-doses of psilocybin were given to the 51 cancer patients, data demonstrated that it tremendously reduced depression, anxiety and other mood disturbances. Not only that, micro-dosing with psilocybin increased the quality of life/relationships and optimism in these patients. When the researchers followed up with these patients after six months, they found that the patients had not relapsed. Therefore, researchers concluded that micro-dosing with psilocybin had long term effects.

 One particular objection that can come up when using psilocybin is addiction. People usually believe that psychedelics are addictive. However, psilocybin does not act on the dopaminergic system (linked with addiction) and therefore cannot cause dependence.  

Unlike antidepressants, psilocybin is non-addictive in nature. In fact, some researchers say that psilocybin may even be better than antidepressants. Most of the antidepressants elevate the levels of monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. The elevation of these neurotransmitters helps in reducing the symptoms of depression. Besides, newer ketamine-like medicines have also been found to reduce the symptoms of depression through its effect on glutamate neurotransmission. However, these antidepressants and ketamine have high abuse liability. Their administration involves the physiological risk that requires medical monitoring. That is why Psilocybin is better than the conventional antidepressants and ketamine medications in the following ways:

  • Psilocybin combines the effects of both antidepressants and ketamine medication to its advantage. Meaning, it acts on both the serotonergic and the glutamatergic systems in the brain. You get the benefits of both medicines with psilocybin.
  • Research shows that psilocybin has lower addiction liability and harmful effects compared with Ketamine. Also, research has found no long term cognitive or neurological dysfunction associated with the use of psilocybin.
  • Psilocybin works on the root causes of depression rather than suppressing the symptoms. As a consequence, the re-emission rates are little. 

How does psilocybin work?

The region of the brain that fires up when dealing with fear, stress and emotional responses is the amygdala. Functional MRI reports demonstrate that micro-dosing with psilocybin reduces the blood flow to the amygdala. As a consequence, it decreases the amygdala reactivity to negative and neutral stimuli and improves emotional responsiveness. Due to the decrease in amygdala reactivity, individuals feel positive emotions more often. FMRI also shows that psilocybin increases crosstalk in regions of the brain that usually do not communicate and therefore reduce the depressive symptoms. Patients often explain that upon micro-dosing with Psilocybin, they relived a range of memories. Love, pain, grief, you name it; they embodied those emotions that were once suppressed. They were able to separate their past traumas and get insights about them. They go on to say that they somehow looked at the grieving experiences and confronted them. It was as if they had become wiser in their heads. For the next couple of weeks that they were on psilocybin, they felt enthusiastic about life and accepted their experiences. The pastimes that they had once become apathetic about were now looked at with a cheerful attitude.

Other than its effectiveness in treating depression, psilocybin may reduce the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Furthermore, psilocybin is also seen to have efficacy for the treatment of tobacco use disorder and alcohol use disorder. A study robustly backs the relationship between micro-dosing with psilocybin and the reduction of troubled and distressed behaviour. Not only that, it shows how the micro-dosing of psilocybin leads to more creativity and good judgement. 

Overall, research has demonstrated the benefits of psilocybin with little or no sides effects at all. Governments are allowing its use for the treatment of various mental disorders. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration gave license to researchers in the US to use psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. This is a significant landmark in the field of psychotherapy since more than 100 million people suffer from depression that does not respond to conventional treatments.  

If you are someone who experiences anxiety or depressive symptoms on a daily bases, then psilocybin is for you. There is enough research that backs the efficacy of micro-dosing with psilocybin for good mental health. Not only will psilocybin reduce the negative emotions, but it will also elevate your overall psychological well being. Click on this link to order now.