Psilocybin Therapy for Depression: Does It Help?

FEATURED
December 20, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
MIN READ

Could a mushroom help you find relief from the typical symptoms of major depressive disorder? That might be simplifying the issue, but it’s essentially the question that many researchers have been asking in recent years.

You might have heard people claim that you can find everything you need in nature. While that’s not true one hundred percent of the time, it’s fascinating to think about what therapeutic resources might be available to us that have yet to be discovered or researched.

What Is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in a psychoactive variety of mushrooms commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms. People who ingest psilocybin will go on a trip that lasts for multiple hours, containing auditory and visual hallucinations and changes in time perception and consciousness.

These experiences may only last for four to six hours, but the afterglow of psilocybin’s effects may last much longer. In 2016, Johns Hopkins University researchers found that controlled psilocybin treatment significantly reduced feelings of existential anxiety and depression in people with a terminal illness diagnosis. This reporting suggests that psilocybin therapy might have the potential as a legal, effective treatment option for other mental health conditions.

What Is Psilocybin Therapy?

Psilocybin therapy is a treatment that pairs psychoactive drugs with psychotherapy. In this therapy setting, a patient will ingest psilocybin under a therapist’s supervision. Then, the patient will experience the typical psychedelic effects of this chemical in a controlled, safe environment. Consuming this compound under therapeutic facilitation can allow the patient to enjoy the positive effects psychedelic journey with fewer risks.

What Does Psilocybin Therapy Feel Like?

Those who ingest high doses of psilocybin usually go through a psychedelic trip that can be categorized into four phases. During the onset phase, users begin to notice changes in their visual and auditory environment for around two hours. They may see more vibrant colors and new graphic patterns emerging. This phase may feel like the world is coming into a high-definition focus.

Next, psilocybin users move to the second phase, consisting of the peak experience. This portion of the trip may contain feelings of euphoria and an increased sense of gravity for the next one or two hours. They’ll experience more overt auditory and visual hallucinations and may feel a wave of spiritual insight.

The third phase is when the comedown begins. Sense of taste may be more pronounced during this period, and visual hallucinations will start to fade. The user may notice emotions coming to the surface, which can be negative or uncomfortable.

In the final phase, the user will sober up and experience a sense of well-being. Some people feel exhausted as they come back to reality, but others sense a lasting feeling of peace.

Before a psilocybin treatment session, the patient will be able to talk with their therapeutic provider about their anticipation and any anxiety they feel toward undergoing the treatment. The therapeutic provider will attend to the patient during the treatment to ensure they are okay.

After psilocybin sessions, patients can speak with their mental health provider about their experience and how it might translate to ongoing behavioral change. The facilitator can offer psychological support for the patient as they go forward in follow-up sessions.

Is Psilocybin Therapy Safe and Effective?

In 2006, Johns Hopkins published an influential study noting the favorable long-term influence of using psilocybin therapeutically. Since then, other studies have shown that the use of psilocybin produces positive effects for around 66% of those who undergo this treatment.

Currently, psilocybin is still a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no legal uses in most of the United States. Although Oregon was the first state to make this type of treatment legal in supervised settings, it is always somewhat hazardous to use it recreationally.

Oregon’s legalization of this drug could lead to more states hopping on board with psychedelic treatment and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Until then, medical experts are continuing to research psilocybin therapy to ensure it’s safe and effective in the long term.

What Are the Side Effects of Psilocybin Therapy?

In controlled settings, it’s very possible to undergo a single psilocybin treatment without serious adverse effects present. However, it’s a good idea to be aware of the potentially unfavorable consequences you could encounter with a psilocybin psychedelic experience. Possible side effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Nausea
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depersonalization

What Other Forms of Psychedelic Treatment Exist?

Psilocybin isn’t the only psychedelic drug being studied for mental illness. It might feel surprising, but researchers are starting to revisit the idea that psychedelics might be able to benefit our brains with therapeutic properties.

Some of the frontrunners of this research are ketamine, LSD, and MDMA. Today, MDMA is undergoing clinical trials to understand its effectiveness in relieving PTSD symptoms.

Some studies have also indicated that LSD can help those struggling with substance use disorders.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

Ketamine treatment can help address neural pathways and synapses in the brain that have weakened over time. This drug works by helping to restore those synapses, which supports your ability to develop restorative thought patterns.

During ketamine treatment sessions, you can experience an altered state of consciousness that leads to powerful insight. Single experiences typically last from 90 minutes to two hours, and you’ll have someone with you to ensure you stay safe.

Ketamine treatment is sometimes paired with psychotherapy sessions that allow you to use your experiences to catalyze positive change in your life.

How Does Ketamine Feel Compared to Psilocybin?

Compared to psilocybin, ketamine experiences are shorter and more predictable. Both substances can produce a powerful psychoactive experience with beneficial therapeutic effects. However, one of the most pronounced differences between the two is that ketamine feels more dissociative, and psilocybin may be more mystical and hallucinogenic.

Is Ketamine Treatment Legal?

Ketamine is unique compared to classic psychedelics. Psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD are currently Schedule I drugs with no legal healthcare use. On the other hand, ketamine is a psychoactive substance classified as a Schedule C drug. Though it’s mainly used as an anesthetic, this distinction allows doctors to prescribe it off-label for therapeutic use.

What Can Ketamine Treatment Be Used For?

Ketamine treatments have been studied in connection with several mental health disorders. Its most supported use is for treatment-resistant depression. As more research emerges, experts may be able to confirm its effectiveness as a treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder.

Anxiety

Some studies have shown ketamine to be effective in treating anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder.

PTSD

Ketamine has also demonstrated compelling therapeutic progress for people experiencing PTSD symptoms. Some studies indicate that ketamine can not only help people who experience flashbacks from PTSD, but it may also help people release trauma after experiencing a traumatic event.

Major Depression and Treatment-Resistant Depression

Around 40% of people using antidepressant medications don’t experience a full recovery from their depression symptoms. For these people, non-traditional care is an option worth pursuing.

Ketamine treatments have been shown to significantly lower depression scores compared to SSRIs. Studies also show ketamine’s antidepressant effects were evident compared to people who received a placebo.

Bipolar Disorder

Since ketamine can help reduce depression symptoms, it can also support those experiencing bipolar disorder, helping to regulate lows and reduce suicidal thoughts.

How Can I Get Started With Ketamine Therapy?

If you’re ready to try a non-traditional treatment option for your depression, getting started is easy. At Nue Life, we begin with a free consultation to figure out whether ketamine could be the next step for you.

From there, you’ll go through a series of supervised ketamine experiences spread out over time. We’ll be with you every step of the way as you explore the root of your depression and find meaning in this process.

The Bottom Line

Psilocybin is one psychedelic compound that has received increasing attention in the scientific community. Research surrounding this mushroom-borne compound is starting to show potential for therapeutic use that could be life-changing. Though its use is not yet approved in all states, it may join ketamine as a non-traditional treatment for depression.

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.

Sources:

Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance | Pharmacology

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: study design and rationale for phase 3 trials based on pooled analysis of six phase 2 randomized controlled trials – PMC | NIH NCBI

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for alcoholism: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials | NIH NCBI

Psychedelics and reconsolidation of traumatic and appetitive maladaptive memories: focus on cannabinoids and ketamine | SpringerLink

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