Psilocybin Therapy: The Ultimate Guide

FEATURED
December 16, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
13 MIN READ

Psychedelic magic mushroom trips typically last 6-8 hours, but recent studies show psilocybin might have antidepressant properties for up to a year. It might feel taboo to think of using psychedelic drugs in therapeutic medicine, but that’s precisely what recent medical researchers are seeking to do. If psychoactive substances can alter the mind for the better, why not give them a shot?

Let’s explore more about psilocybin’s effects and origins. If you’ve never considered the role psychedelic drugs could play in mental health, now is an excellent time to find out what researchers have been so fascinated by.

If you deal with persistent mental health issues, you might find this information especially relevant. Though living with mental illnesses can be challenging, emerging scientific findings might offer new solutions that help you enjoy your life and experience well-being.

What Is Psilocybin?

If you’ve ever heard of magic mushrooms, you’ve heard the nickname of the psychedelic substance psilocybin. It’s a psychedelic compound that grows in certain types of mushrooms. In the United States, it’s currently an illegal substance with a Schedule I classification. This status indicates that it has a high potential for abuse and doesn’t have FDA-approved medical use.

Psilocybin is a mind-altering substance with a complex history. Its discovery and use stretch back thousands of years, and since then, many people have experienced its psychedelic effects.

It’s important to realize the widespread history of this substance. Psilocybin might be well-known for recreational use in western culture, but its spiritual use in ancient civilizations holds rich significance.

Some of its histories include being used to fortify people physically against the elements, being used in secret Greek ritual ceremonies, and being consumed by religious leadership as an ode to spiritual deities. In western culture, psilocybin took off in the 1960s. It became a prominent substance in the counterculture movement, but in 1968, the U.S. outlawed its use along with LSD and marijuana.

What Does Psilocybin Feel Like?

If you’ve never tried psilocybin mushrooms, you might be curious about how it feels to take this drug. Psilocybin’s popularity comes from its hallucinogenic effects, which can be mind-altering and long-lasting.

You can divide a typical psilocybin treatment into four parts. During the first part of a magic mushroom trip, the psilocybin user will feel the onset of this drug. This onset phase typically begins around thirty minutes into the trip and lasts for approximately two hours. Colors will start to seem more vivid, and visual hallucinations may begin.

The next phase is the peak phase, which lasts for around two hours. In this peak period, the user will experience more powerful hallucinations and could feel slightly disconnected from themselves. During this stage, someone may also encounter mystical, spiritual insights.

Around the fourth hour of a psilocybin trip, the comedown begins. Hallucinogenic effects will start to fade, and the person using this substance may feel physically or mentally tired from their experience.

Finally, psilocybin tends to induce an afterglow after its immediate effects wear off. During this time, someone may enjoy the mystical encounters they sensed during their time on the drug, and these insights may impact them for days after the trip is over.

What Is Psilocybin Treatment?

Though psilocybin is currently illegal for medical use, certain FDA permissions allow researchers and clinicians to conduct clinical trials testing the therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin as an intervention for mental health. These trials include using psilocybin as a treatment alternative to help ease the symptoms of certain mental health conditions. This treatment method may consist of psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin to provide people with a more holistic therapeutic experience.  

While it is still in the research stage, we may see this treatment alternative gain legal status and popularity over time. The same mind-altering properties that fueled the counterculture movement in the 1960s may bring well-being and relief to people with persistent mental health conditions in the future.

What Are the Origins of Psilocybin Treatment?

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has been one of the front-runners in the research surrounding psilocybin. In 2000, a group of Johns Hopkins researchers was the first to receive regulatory approval from the FDA to study the effects of psychedelic medicine on healthy volunteer participants. Soon after, John Hopkins released a study on the mystical properties of psilocybin that piqued the interest of the scientific community.

In 2014, Johns Hopkins published a study detailing the results of psilocybin treatment for those with substance use problems. This study showed that long-time smokers were able to quit smoking after controlled use of psilocybin with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Shortly after this study, they released another study that concluded that controlled use of psilocybin decreases anxiety and depression symptoms for people with a cancer diagnosis.

In 2018, Johns Hopkins recommended that psilocybin might not be as dangerous as it was believed to be when outlawed in 1968. They suggested that if it passed phase III clinical trials, recategorization from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule IV drug may be appropriate.

After this, further studies showed this treatment’s beneficial effects for people with alcohol abuse and major depression. In 2021, Johns Hopkins was awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the potential of psilocybin treatment for tobacco addiction. This grant is the first awarded by the NIH in fifty years, which is another sign indicating that psychedelic treatment may become legal and prevalent in the coming years.  

What Are the Benefits of Psilocybin Treatment?

More research is needed to confirm the benefits and safety of psilocybin treatment, but with what we know now, there are several possible benefits to this treatment alternative. Currently, psilocybin treatment shows promise for benefiting a few primary groups: those with substance use disorders, those with cancer-related anxiety and depression, and those with depression.

For people with substance use disorders, medically-observed psychedelic treatments could help them break behavioral patterns related to substance use and encourage healthier habits through neuroplasticity.

Smoking cessation and alcohol use are examples. Psilocybin treatment on those dealing with a cancer diagnosis showed that even a single dose of psilocybin helped relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. This substance has also been shown to help alleviate symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD).

Is Psilocybin Treatment Safe?

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not confirmed psilocybin’s safety, some studies suggest that it may be safe with supervised, controlled usage. However, since this drug is a hallucinogen, using it alone can’t be guaranteed to be safe. Its mind-altering properties alone can cause disorientation, leading to dangerous behavior, and may interact with other substances.

Are There Side Effects of Psilocybin?

Many of psilocybin’s effects are pleasant. These include visual and auditory hallucinations, heightened senses, mystical experiences, and feeling like you’re in a dream. However, like many drugs, psilocybin isn’t without side effects. Here’s a quick list to be aware of:

  • Dizziness
  • Impaired thinking
  • Motor control issues
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia

The effects you might feel under the influence of this substance differ from person to person. Additionally, using other substances and medications may impact the way you feel while taking psilocybin.

Who Should Avoid Psilocybin Treatment?

Since psilocybin is a psychedelic drug, it has a high potential for recreational abuse. Though it may have therapeutic potential in controlled settings, it’s not the best idea to take this substance into your own hands. If you’re someone who tends to seek out substances to numb your emotions or escape your inner world, trying psilocybin won’t be the best idea. Consider avoiding using this drug under any of the following circumstances:

  • If your family has a history of mental health issues
  • If you typically become unsafe while using drugs
  • If you turn to psychedelics to self-medicate
  • If you live with a heart condition or other serious illness

Is Psilocybin Treatment Legal?

Since this substance’s current classification is a Schedule I drug, it’s not officially legal or safe for recreational or medical use. As research confirms psilocybin’s effectiveness, that classification may change.

In a groundbreaking turn of events, Oregon became the first state to legalize its medical use in 2020. Still, it’s important to note that taking this drug in any capacity outside of clinical trials is not permitted in other states, although many states are decriminalizing it.

What Are Alternatives to Psilocybin Treatment?

Currently, psilocybin is only one of the psychedelics researchers are studying in hopes of finding therapeutic benefits. Other psychedelics that have gained the interest of the medical and scientific communities include MDMA, LSD, and ketamine. Though these drugs are highly popular as club drugs, their mind-altering properties have already shown potential for easing symptoms of mental health conditions.

Here are a few examples of their potential benefits:

  • MDMA: Several phase II clinical trials suggest that MDMA can help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a study with 90 participants, 67% no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after MDMA-assisted therapy.
  • LSD: This psychedelic therapy option may provide support for symptoms of alcohol use disorder and anxiety in people living with a terminal diagnosis. In January of 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved a Phase 2 clinical trial involving a pharmacologically-optimized version of LSD for generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Ketamine: Ketamine is another option that provides psychological support for various mental health conditions. Subanesthetic doses of this substance can often rapidly relieve symptoms of treatment-resistant depression and may help with anxiety.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

Of the group of psychedelics we’ve mentioned, ketamine is unique. Although it’s a psychoactive drug, its Schedule III status allows doctors to prescribe it off-label for therapeutic purposes. Because of this, taking ketamine doses for treatment-resistant depression is an alternative treatment option that has been growing in popularity.

The process of ketamine treatment is somewhat different than taking prescribed antidepressants. With typical antidepressant medications, you might take a pill unsupervised each day, reporting back to a psychiatric professional periodically. Though you’d need a prescription, you’d be able to take the drug independently and probably continue to take it to manage your symptoms.

With ketamine treatment, things work somewhat differently. Like antidepressants and SSRIs, you’d need a doctor’s prescription to get the drug. The process is more controlled after that point. To take ketamine doses, you’d need to be in the care of a therapeutic clinician for a couple of hours to ensure your experience goes according to plan.

With ketamine treatment, the goal is to have several sessions spaced apart. Rather than taking medication each day for symptom management, the purpose of ketamine treatment is to understand the root of your depression and begin shifting your thought processes in your daily life.

Is Ketamine Treatment Safe and Legal?

Ketamine is completely legal when prescribed by a doctor and taken under the care of a professional. However, ketamine is a controlled substance, and it may have a potential for misuse outside of a clinician’s care. For that reason, ketamine is only safe under the observation of a medical professional.

Ketamine has a few side effects, but those who undergo ketamine treatment typically only experience these side effects for a short time, if at all. Here is a brief list to be aware of:

  • Visual distortions
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dissociation
  • Feeling numb

Medications work differently for different people. If you’re wondering whether ketamine treatment could work for you, talking to a trained therapeutic professional about your medical history and other medications and substance use could help. Overall, ketamine is a safe alternative to traditional mental health care, and it might be an option that could make a positive impact on your life.

What Are the Benefits?

You might be wondering how ketamine compares to traditional antidepressant approaches. One of the amazing things about ketamine treatment is how quickly it works to relieve symptoms of depression compared to other forms of care. If you’ve ever tried SNRIs or SSRIs, you’ll know that it typically takes weeks to begin feeling the effects of the antidepressant medication in question. With ketamine treatments, even a single dose can help significantly improve your mental health.

Another benefit of ketamine is its success rate. Typical antidepressants don’t work for up to 50% of the population. On the other hand, ketamine treatment may be effective for up to 70% of those who try it.

Some forms of ketamine treatment require you to remain in an office for hours-long appointments where you’ll receive your ketamine treatment. However, one benefit to Nue Life ketamine treatments is how easy they are to receive. Our ketamine is an oral sublingual, so you just stick it under your tongue and wait for the effects to kick in. We’ll provide supervision virtually so that you can experience your ketamine treatment in the relaxed environment of your home.

Who Should Consider Ketamine Treatment?

As we mentioned, SSRIs and other antidepressants aren’t a solution that works for everyone. If you’re someone who has depression that won’t go away no matter what you try, ketamine could be the option that helps things change for the better.

Ketamine treatments can also help alleviate the symptoms of a few more conditions. In addition to treatment-resistant depression, ketamine can also benefit a few more mood disorders.

Here’s a look at the other ways ketamine works for mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety: Ketamine treatments can encourage new neural pathways in the brain. These new pathways can help establish healthy thought patterns and could correct the symptoms of anxiety that you’re used to.
  • Bipolar disorder: Part of living with bipolar disorder is experiencing states of depression. Ketamine can help regulate the brain’s activity to relieve symptoms of depression, which can be a massive help for those who experience bipolar disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Ketamine is twice as effective as some treatment options for PTSD. Although it’s an up-and-coming treatment option, more people living with PTSD may benefit from this treatment method in the coming years.

How Can I Get Started With Ketamine Treatment?

If you’re ready to try a new alternative to treat your mood disorder, talking to a professional at Nue Life can help walk you through how ketamine might make a positive difference in your life. During a free consultation, we’ll chat about your experience with mental health and talk you through the process of going through your first ketamine treatment and any questions you may have.

How Does Ketamine Treatment Work?

Ketamine treatments offer psychological support to help your mind form new neural pathways. It does this by binding to NDMA receptors to encourage more glutamate neurotransmitters. The presence of more glutamate neurotransmitters in your brain encourages neuron communication, triggering another type of receptor known as AMPA receptors. Through this process, ketamine helps guide your brain toward healthier patterns and restoration.

The Bottom Line

Psilocybin therapy is just one new treatment making an impact in mental health research. Though it’s not approved for widespread therapeutic use, the ever-increasing scientific research surrounding psychedelic therapy may one day present psilocybin therapy as a bona fide solution in mental health.

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:

The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin – National Center for Biotechnology Information | PubMed Central

Side effects mild, brief with single antidepressant dose of intravenous ketamine | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Johns Hopkins study explains why MDMA may help treat PTSD | Hub

Psilocybin treatment for major depression effective for up to a year for most patients, study shows | Hub

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