How Psychedelic Mushrooms Could Treat Depression

From Seeker.

Could psilocybin mushrooms be the biggest mental health breakthrough since antidepressants? Here’s why certain people are answering with a resounding "yes."
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’Shrooms can actually be any of over 180 species of mushroom that contain these hallucinogenic compounds. You may have heard of psilocybin as the active compound in shrooms but actually, your body breaks psilocybin down into psilocin. This is actually the chemical that affects your brain—it’s what induces increased sensory perception, heightened emotions, even euphoria, and hallucinations. And it’s very interesting to neuroscientists because structurally, it’s very similar to serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that controls a bunch of things all over your body. And apparently, the serotonin system in your brain—how it’s taken up by your neurons and how it helps different parts of your brain communicate with each other—is really complex, and we still don’t fully understand it. But generally, the consensus seems that low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety. But generally, the consensus seems that low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety. This is why one of the most commonly prescribed medications for depression and anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These drugs boost the levels of serotonin in the brain, improving the symptoms of these mental illnesses.

The scientific community has been looking at hallucinogens for therapeutic use in mushrooms specifically because their potential side effects are generally considered less extreme than LSD or ecstasy. There’s less of an extreme peak and then crash, and research shows they have less potential to be addictive. Which is why, in 2021, researchers at Imperial College London used it in their study, comparing it to SSRIs as a treatment for depression.

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