According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people are affected by depression worldwide. Those who ask for help are typically treated with antidepressants and therapy. While some people benefit greatly from those modalities, others don’t seem to see much improvement, or are left with the burden of nasty side effects to go along with it. Treatment resistant depression is extremely common in the US, with only 30 percent of those who suffer from depression reaching full remission (statistic found here). In the last few years, there has been increasing studies done on alternative methods to help those who suffer with mental health issues. As we step into a new age, once taboo treatments are becoming much more acceptable and well known. One of those methods is microdosing psilocybin—the natural ingredient in magic mushrooms. While a fairly new topic in the mental health world, those who have tried it claim to have incredible results—ranging from short-term relief of symptoms to long-term remission of mental health issues.
According to Third Wave, a group dedicated to educating the public on drug safety as well as the benefits of microdosing, the act of microdosing is taking a small amount of a substance (in this case psilocybin) small enough that it doesn’t give you the feeling of being “high”- but gives benefits that range from anxiety relief, improved mood, focus and creativity. A microdose is one-tenth of a dose amount that one might take to experience a “trip.” Typically, they are between .05-.25 grams and are sub-perceptual—so those who partake incorporate microdosing frequently into their routines. Third Wave also discusses the associated health benefits: decreased stress, openness, self forgiveness, and the alleviation of persistent conditions, such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and PTSD.
This treatment has gained popularity recently, and some influencers and celebrities have taken to social media to open up about the benefits they have experienced.
So how does it work? One of the ways mental health issues manifest is that they leave the sufferer stuck in certain behavior or thought patterns, not letting the brain let go of ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. Psilocybin helps allow the brain to create and choose new neural pathways, which permits for new ways of thinking and “un-stuckness.”
Psychedelic drugs can help open and retrain neural pathways in the brain. Depression and anxiety often cause overconnectivity of the brain, which results in rumination, and being stuck in a way of thinking.
If your brain is stuck in one way of thinking, taking a microdose of magic mushrooms can help new neural pathways open up, and help the brain to become “unstuck” in ways that traditional medication is unable to do. This shows people that it is possible for them to escape the thoughts and emotions that have held them captive for so long.
According to a 2017 study by Thomas Anderson of the University of Toronto, those who partake in microdosing exhibit less negative emotion and feel more creative, open minded, and at peace. According to another study done by The Lancet, patients who were given psilocybin experienced no serious adverse effects and noticed significant improvement in symptoms related to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. More on this study can be found here.
Unfortunately, the research on the benefits of microdosing psilocybin is less common and not as frequently studied. One roadblock to receiving this kind of treatment is that researchers are still in initial stages as to studying the drugs effectiveness. Psilocybin is still a highly illegal drug in the United States, so it comes with risk of criminalization as well as the stigma around taking drugs.
For those looking to dive deeper into the science behind microdosing, the studies and research surrounding it, as well as a firsthand experience of the effects, check out this The Atlantic article for further research.
Ali Parsons graduated from The University of Washington with a degree in Media & Communications. She is passionate about nutrition, health, and wellness and is currently in the process of becoming a Registered Dietitian. Ali enjoys cooking, running, yoga, hiking and travel!