Magic mushrooms may help ease depression, but are they safe?

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

The potential of magic mushrooms to act as a ‘magic’ solution to treat depression is getting a lot of attention. One of the most important aspects is safety.

WINK News reporter Amy Oshier spoke with a researcher who looked into it, based on the belief that this may one day be used as an alternative to anti-depressants.

The mushrooms may be all-natural, but are they ‘all good’ for you? Many people swear magic mushrooms help them ease clinical depression. Research so far is mostly positive. The compound psilocybin found in the fungi packs a powerful punch.

“Psilocybin is the ingredient that is found in magic mushrooms. That is what provides these hallucinogenic effects and some possible benefit for people that have depression,” explained Joshua Caballero, an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Georgia and lead researcher in this new study.

Caballero’s findings were published in the JAMA Network, which is part of the Journal of the American Medical Association. He wanted to dig deeper into mushrooms as a medicine.

“Even though there’s been a lot of studies looking at the benefits and how psilocybin maybe may be able to help depression, we wanted to take a closer look at the side effects,” he said.

Looking at about 500 adults who took a single dose under medical oversight, the study compared psilocybin to traditional meds used to treat depression.

“The side effects that we found more often were nausea, a little bit of increased anxiety, dizziness, a little bit of increased blood pressure,” Caballero said. “And these are typical acute side effects that we normally would see when people take those regular anti-depressants.”

That’s because the shroom alternative also targets serotonin receptors, which is how current drugs work. Only the mushroom impact may last longer.

“The benefits could last several months. That’s still very preliminary, but it’s looking promising,” Caballero said.

It’s a lot to digest, and taking magic mushrooms doesn’t equal a controlled dose of medicinal mushroom’s psilocybin.

“They’re completely different. Grams of mushrooms are not the same as 10 to 25 milligrams of psilocybin. We don’t know what the concentration of different mushrooms are when it comes to the active ingredient that we’re looking at,” Caballero said.

If the psychedelic alternative becomes more mainstream, it’s important to clearly see the benefits and concerns.

This study did not include young adults and teens, who may be more vulnerable to side effects. Even current anti-depressants include warnings that they could, in some people, lead to suicidal impulses.

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