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Will magic mushrooms replace anti-depressant medicine?

In a surprising turn in mental health research magic mushrooms, known scientifically as psilocybin mushrooms, are gaining attention for their potential antidepressant properties. Early studies suggest that they could offer a new approach to treating depression, possibly surpassing the effectiveness of traditional medicines while causing fewer adverse side effects.

However, despite these discoveries, it's crucial to remember that we're still in the preliminary stages of understanding their therapeutic potential. As we stand at the threshold of this groundbreaking research, the potential of magic mushrooms to reshape the landscape of depression treatment is exciting, yet it requires further rigorous investigation.

What promising results have these early studies gathered?

The utilization of psilocybin for depression treatment is garnering increasing attention, largely catalyzed by promising outcomes from preliminary clinical trials involving cancer patients. These initial results are reshaping perspectives, suggesting that these unconventional substances may harbor untapped potential in managing depressive symptoms.

In a seminal study carried out in 2016 by a collaborative team from Imperial College London and other esteemed institutions, they discovered that just one dose of psilocybin yielded enduring effects on individuals suffering from moderate to severe major depression. This revelation underscores the potential potency of psilocybin, wherein a solitary dose could have an impact extending far beyond the immediate treatment period.

However, it's important to note a crucial flaw in the study design: it lacked a control group, or a segment of participants not receiving psilocybin for comparison. Therefore, while the results are intriguing, they do not conclusively establish psilocybin's effectiveness in treating depression. This serves as a crucial reminder of the complexities inherent in scientific research, and the caution needed before drawing definitive conclusions.

Nevertheless, there are other studies which have drawn better and more reliable conclusions than the aforementioned study carried out in 2016. The first one is a research study carried out by Stephen Ross a professor from New York University (NYU), where he looks into “rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer”. From this research, Ross and his fellow researchers, concluded that single moderate-dose psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, produced rapid and enduring anti-depressant effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.

The second study pointing towards the benefits of psilocybin with treating depression comes from Johns Hopkins University. This study consisted of a randomized double-blind trial where they researched how psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety amongst patients with life-threatening cancer. The results harbored from this experiment seemed to be promising. Under psychologically supportive and double-blind conditions, a single psilocybin dose significantly reduced depressed mood and anxiety while enhancing life quality and mitigating death anxiety in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.

Despite the promising outcomes, we currently have limited data on the use of psilocybin for depression treatment. Nonetheless, the scarcity of evidence hasn't prevented a surge in its advocacy, with more trials emerging as interest of the public and scientific world rises. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, an international database housing medical research studies, there are currently 12 active investigations exploring the potential of psilocybin as a treatment for depression.

Future of psilocybin depression treatment

With all these trials popping up, it is clear that interest in this topic is there, but do we know what the future of psilocybin will be in the medical field? The answer is no, as that is impossible to predict. Nonetheless it is certain that establishments such as universities and medical companies are looking, and exploring the field of psychedelics as a replacement for antidepressants and other mental health illnesses. 

One of the universities actively recruiting, and carrying out medical trials, is Imperial College London. This specific medical trial looks to compare the effects of psilocybin to the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) for the treatment of severe depression. It is important to mention that using psilocybin as a medical treatment is not recommended at home as it requires proper dosage and guidance from a trained psychotherapist in order to yield the fairest and most accurate results.


As we navigate the labyrinth of depression treatment, the unexpected beacon of magic mushrooms offers a glimmer of hope. Initial research suggests an untapped potential in these unconventional agents, opening up fascinating possibilities in the treatment of depression. Even in the face of grave challenges, such as life-threatening cancer, early studies indicate that psilocybin can offer significant relief. Institutions like Imperial College London, NYU & Johns Hopkins University are pioneering this exploration, sparking what could be a significant paradigm shift in our approach to mental health.

However, as we teeter on the edge of this burgeoning field, an anecdote from the scientific community resonates - "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Early results, while compelling, need to be propped by robust, well-controlled studies. As we venture deeper into this relatively uncharted terrain, we're reminded of the possibilities inherent in the unknown, underscoring a sense of optimism for the future of depression treatment.

The story of psilocybin echoes a timeless wisdom: nature often contains the most profound solutions.

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