Magic Mushroom as a treatment option for PTSD

Magic Mushrooms and Mental Health

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has “twice designated psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression as a “breakthrough therapy,” in 2018 and 2019” (Foldi et al., 2020). Indeed, medicinal magic mushrooms and culinary mushrooms are ancient parts of human culture and evolution.

World-renowned mycologist and mycophile Paul Stametes affirms that “psilocybin induces neurogenesis, courage, and kindness” (Stametes, 2020). He rightfully concludes that these are leadership skills that lead to better citizenship in a functional society. You don’t need to search too hard for evidence that our species is long overdue for meaningful, unified levels of courage, kindness, and leadership. 

And the sheer number of well-known universities and institutions, including Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools, currently studying the benefits of mushrooms corroborates this reality. Certainly, books like Michael Pollan’s ‘How to Change Your Mind,’ in which he turns psychonaut for research, have contributed to popularizing this zeitgeist (Pollan, 2021). 

Why Are Magic Mushrooms So Promising?

A non-addictive, highly effective pharmacological and psychotherapeutic medicine, mushrooms are gaining traction and popular acceptance fast. 

Anyone who has tripped on a higher dose of magic mushrooms is aware that it is not an addictive substance. Indeed, studies prove that following single, high-dose administrations, the overwhelmingly positive effects can last for many months. Furthermore, the experiences provided by these high doses are cumulative, making for meaningfully low rates of remission.

Meaning and Flexibility is Built into Psilocybin Treatment

Both microdoses and full doses of psychedelic magic mushrooms have been and are being tested in a variety of psychotherapeutic studies. Both styles are proving effective in various applications in everything from anxiety to anorexia. 

This article will highlight some of the medical findings regarding psilocybin cubensis. By the time you reach the end of this article, you will still only have scratched the surface of how magical mushrooms truly are! 

Stimulate Neurogenesis With Magic Mushrooms

Both psychedelic and non-psychedelic strains of mushrooms, like Reishi and Chaga, encourage neurogenesis (Catlow et al., 2013), forging new neural pathways in the brain. The complex mechanisms by which they achieve this important feat are beyond the scope of this article. But the references following will guide you straight to the science, which is fascinating. 

In an exhaustive 2011 review, Ming and Song highlight the “tremendous progress in addressing questions related to almost every aspect of adult neurogenesis in the mammalian brain” (Ming and Song, 2011). The ability to stimulate neurogenesis is at the heart of mushroom’s efficacy in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, and other issues which we will cover. 

Paul Stametes’ Neurogenesis Protocol

Citing Terrence and Dennis McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory, Paul Stametes designed a neurogenesis protocol that involves micro-dosing magic mushrooms in conjunction with Lion’s Mane non-psychoactive mushrooms and niacin. “Psilocybin degrades into psilocin which tightly binds to and activates serotonin receptors, stimulating neurogenesis, improving visual acuity and hearing.” (Stametes, 2020) Niacin carries the powerful, multi-functional neurotransmitter GABA across the blood/brain barrier. This protocol has been adopted by Osmosis, for example, in their Brain Boost Microdose Caps

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Hundreds of studies attest to the powerful neuroprotective attributes of Hericium Erinaceus, Lion’s Mane mushrooms. A culinary mushroom with the flavour of lobster when cooked, Lion’s Mane stimulates the production of nerve growth factor (NGF). And this neuropeptide is responsible for neural protection, signalling, and pathway stimulation. 

But stimulating NGF is not an isolated benefit. Indeed, by counteracting neurotoxicity caused by poor lifestyle, diet, and genetic complications, Lion’s Mane’s potential is seemingly endless. In addition, lion’s Mane could prevent neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s with Lion’s Mane. 

When used in conjunction with magic mushrooms, which stimulate neurogenesis, Lion’s Mane’s potential to promote overall health, well-being, and vitality are vast.

Mushrooms and Immune Function

While Lion’s Mane is no doubt special, all non-psychedelic mushrooms have an array of incredible health benefits. Improving overall immune function tops the list, with Turkey Tail mushrooms leading the pack (Benson et al., 2019).

In conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle, regular consumption of mushrooms can protect full body vitality. In addition, by promoting an overall feeling of calm, vigour, and energy while reducing symptoms of depression, Users can experience additional health benefits. 

The increased attunement to our inner state and health status can be attributed to the potent anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties of non-psychoactive mushrooms. These powerful properties improve insulin sensitivity and can help to treat leaky gut syndrome and IBS. 

Boost Creativity and Team Work with Magic Mushrooms

Micro-dosing psilocybin cubensis amongst tech workers in Silicon Valley has become the norm. In informal interviews with programmers, Stametes realized that serious professionals consider microdosing magic mushrooms a significant advantage. 

In a notoriously stressful and competitive industry, having access to a non-addictive productivity and creativity boost that improves well-being and lowers depression is priceless. Furthermore, since it encourages kindness and empathy, micro-dosing can enhance teamwork and raise company morale.

Magic Mushrooms for Anxiety and Depression

So far, we have established that psilocybin cubensis stimulates the forging of new neural pathways and that Lion’s Mane promotes neural growth. Indeed, anyone who has experienced a high-dose psilocybin trip will recall that it is characterized by five senses enhancement, feelings of intense well-being, joy, and openness. And anyone who has experienced depression and anxiety will have experienced the opposite in anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure.

The High-Dose Psilocybin Experience

Although micro-dosing holds many benefits, which we’ll dig into shortly, the effectiveness of the following studies was attributed to high-dose psilocybin experiences: “Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction.” (Griffiths et al., 2016).

In a randomized control trial, the hypothesis “that psilocybin, in conjunction with targeted psychotherapy, would significantly decrease anxiety and depression symptoms…in patients with life-threatening cancer diagnoses” was tested (Ross et al., 2016). Here, a full-dose magic mushroom experience was observed, rather than micro-dosing smaller amounts for milder effects. 

The hypothesis proved accurate. Mushrooms immediately and sustainably reducing depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as reducing remission rates. Furthermore, it was found that the “…clinical benefits, in terms of reduction of cancer-related anxiety and depression, of single-dose psilocybin (in conjunction with psychotherapy) may be sustained for longer than 7 weeks post-dosing and that they may endure for as long as 8 months post-psilocybin dosing.” (Ross et al., 2016) 

Mushrooms Are Good News for All Depression and Anxiety Sufferers

This finding is exciting because it corroborates the non-addictive efficacy of psilocybin cubensis in meaningfully treating a severe ailment that affects millions worldwide. Current anti-depression and anxiolytic medication requires sustained, daily use and has many undesirable side effects, including a loss of libido and flattening of emotions. Single doses of psilocybin have the opposite effects and don’t require daily use. Also, a single trip seems to do the trick for months. This makes for a radically noninvasive and inexpensive treatment when compared to current pharmaceutical treatments. 

Magic Mushrooms Reduce Existential Distress in Cancer Patients

An impactful secondary outcome relates to the significant reduction of “cancer-related existential distress.” This distress expresses itself in feelings of hopelessness and demoralization. Sadly, the “attitudes and affect associated with disease progression and death” (ibid) poorly impacts feelings of spirituality, connectedness, and overall quality of life. Certainly, these intangible qualities are vastly important but difficult to measure and can therefore be overlooked by hard science.

Ross and colleagues found that “in the short-term (2 weeks post-dose 1), psilocybin (compared to control) produced decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness while improving spiritual wellbeing and quality of life (physical, psychological, environmental domains). Moreover, these effects were sustained at the final 6.5-month follow-up”, ibid.

Magic Mushrooms, Fear Conditioning and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder caused by either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. And in the case of PTSD and psilocybin treatment, micro-doses have proven far more effective than high doses. While high doses of psilocybin heightened fear conditioning, micro-doses were very useful in removing fear responses (Catlow et al., 2013). 

Decrease Alcohol and Tobacco Dependence with Mushrooms

In a systematic study of microdosing psychedelics, Polito and Stevenson show that psilocybin has been shown to reduce “treatment-resistant depression [44] and to dramatically reduce consumption levels when trialled as a treatment for tobacco addiction [45,46], and alcohol dependence [47].” (Polito, 2019) Micro-dosing magic mushrooms help to foster a focused and enhanced state of mind that makes this possible.

Psilocybin’s Potential for Treating Addiction and Dependency Issues

Combining this creative state with proven anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects could be sufficient to divert dependence on harmful and addictive substances for many fully. And perhaps psilocybin could even use this to address other self-harming, compulsive behaviours. Neurogenesis is involved in learning and rewiring parts of the brain, which is how it works to remove fear responses (Catlow et al., 2013).

Certainly, if addiction can be viewed outside the controversial disease model, it becomes more manageable if neurogenesis is helpful. Rather than a disease, addiction specialist Maia Szlavitz categorizes addiction as “a developmental disorder – a problem involving timing and learning, more similar to autism…ADHD, and dyslexia than it is to mumps or cancer. There is clear both from abundant data and from the lived experience of people with addictions.” (Log 68, Szalavitz, 2016). 

Magic Mushrooms for Anorexia Nervosa

In addition to psilocybin’s proven potential to address addiction and dependence, it has the ability to alleviate the obsession and extremes of Anorexia Nervosa.

“Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder (Harris and Barraclough, 1998) and is characterized by a relentless pursuit of weight loss despite severe emaciation. Most patients with AN also engage in excessive physical exercise and other compulsive locomotor strategies to avoid or counteract weight gain (Davis, 1997).” (Foldi et al., 2020)

The imbalanced, punishing behaviour resulting in a hyper-restrictive diet and excessive exercise regimes in AN patients is attributed to excessive behavioural control and diminished cognitive flexibility. A psychedelic experience breaks down both of these barriers and, in a controlled, supportive environment, can yield promising results by meaningfully shifting cognitive processing. 

Mushrooms Are Non-Addictive, Potent Psychotherapeutics

The studies above are just a small slice of the fascinating pharmacological potential of mushrooms, psychedelic and otherwise. With potent, ancient effects rooted in neurogenesis, they represent an exciting treatment frontier that is reinvigorated when we need it most. That’s progress! 

An important area that we didn’t cover is psilocybin’s powerful effects on all interpersonal relationships, both casual and intimate. Indeed, when it comes to teaching and imbuing empathic states, psilocybin cubensis contains a wealth of knowledge and gifts. We will explore this expansive area in an upcoming article!

References

Benson, K. F., Stamets, P. and Davis, R. (2019) “The mycelium of the Trametes Versicolor (Turkey tail) mushroom and its fermented substrate each show potent and complementary immune-activating properties in vitro,” BMC complementary and alternative medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31791317/ (Accessed 24 July 2021).

Catlow, B. J., et al. (2013) “Effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogenesis and extinction of trace fear conditioning.” Exp Brain Res 228(4): 481-491. mushroomreferences.com, [online] Available from: https://mushroomreferences.com/2019/04/02/effects-of-psilocybin-on-hippocampal-neurogenesis-and-extinction-of-trace-fear-conditioning/ (Accessed 24 July 2021).

Edelson, E. (2017). “Psilocybin and Relationships Satisfaction.” Psychology. ProQuest, Alliant International University. Doctor of Psychology: 24.via mushroomreferences.com, [online] Available from: https://mushroomreferences.com/2019/04/03/psilocybin-and-relationships-satisfaction/ (Accessed 24 July 2021).

Foldi, C. J., Liknaitzky, P. and Williams, M. (2020) “Rethinking Therapeutic Strategies for Anorexia Nervosa: Insights From Psychedelic Medicine and Animal Models,” Frontiers in Neuroscience, Frontiers Media S.A., [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7015070/ (Accessed 25 July 2021).

Griffith , R. R., Johnson, M. W. and Carducci, M. A. (2016) “Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized, double-blind trial,” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27909165/ (Accessed 23 July 2021).

Griffiths, R. R., Richards, W. A. and McCann, U. (2006) “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” Psychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16826400/ (Accessed 24 July 2021).

Hendricks, P. S., Thorne, C. B. and Clark, C. B. (2015) “Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population,” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25586402/ (Accessed 23 July 2021).

Ming, G.-L. and Song, H. (2011) “Adult neurogenesis in the mammalian brain: Significant answers and significant questions,” Neuron, U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106107/ (Accessed 30 July 2021).

Polito, V. and Stevenson, R. J. (2019) “A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics,” PloS one, Public Library of Science, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6364961/ (Accessed 24 July 2021).

Pollan, M. (2021) “How to Change your Mind: Michael Pollan,” Michael Pollan | Michael Pollan writes about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment., [online] Available from: https://michaelpollan.com/books/how-to-change-your-mind/ (Accessed 30 July 2021).

Ross, S., Bossis, A. and Guss, J. (2016) “Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial,” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), SAGE Publications, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367551/ (Accessed 19 July 2021).

Stamet , P. E., Naeger , N. L. and Evans , J. D. (2018) “Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduce Viruses in Honey Bees,” Scientific reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30287824/ (Accessed 23 July 2021).

Stametes, P. (2020) Paul Stamets: Mycology and Mushrooms as Medicines, Exponential Medicine, [online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q0un2GPsSQ (Accessed 30 July 2021).

Szalavitz, M., 2016. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction. Kindle Edition: St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Weil, A. (2020) “Magic mushrooms For Depression?: Mental HEALTH: Andrew Weil, M.D.,” DrWeil.com, [online] Available from: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/mental-health/magic-mushrooms-for-cancer-depression/ (Accessed 30 July 2021).

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