They Had Been Depressed for 18 Years. Then They Took Mushrooms

Study volunteers tripped while accompanied by music and psychiatrists
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2016 8:42 AM CDT
Magic Mushrooms Could Be the Answer to Severe Depression
A new study shows magic mushrooms could be an effective treatment for people with severe depression.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Far out. Researchers in the UK dosed 12 severely depressed volunteers with psilocybin—the active ingredient in magic mushrooms—and found it improved their condition for as long as three months, the Guardian reports. "That is pretty remarkable," one researcher tells Nature. The study—published Tuesday in Lancet Psychiatry—was the first to look specifically at the effects of magic mushrooms on depression. Researchers gave the volunteers, who had been depressed for nearly 18 years on average, two doses of psilocybin a few days apart and allowed them to trip inside a safe room with music playing and two psychiatrists to chat with. Afterward, all 12 reported improvements in their depression for at least three weeks. Five volunteers were still depression-free three months later.

It's unclear if the volunteers were helped because the psilocybin changed their brain chemistry or because their trips gave them new perspective. One volunteer who was depressed after the death of his mother reported visiting her in the hospital and seeing his depression as an ulcer during his psychedelic experience. According to a press release, the main goal of the study was to show it could be safe to give magic mushrooms to people with depression, which researchers argue it did. If further more thorough research holds up their results, researchers say psilocybin could be used to treat the 20% of people with depression for whom antidepressants aren't effective. (Previous research has shown magic mushrooms could help people coping with a terminal cancer diagnosis.)

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