Is psilocybin – a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in ‘magic mushrooms’ – paving the path for a new form of therapeutic healing?
Let’s get right into it… so what is psilocybin therapy exactly? First off, let’s define what psilocybin is and what makes this naturally occurring chemical so special. The molecular structure of psilocybin has the ability to penetrate the central nervous system, which allows us to access altered states of consciousness, and even produce hallucinations.
So, psilocybin is the psycho-active ingredient which gives ‘magic mushrooms’ or ‘shrooms’, well… their magic. Among Indigenous populations, psilocybin mushrooms have been used for thousands of years as a spiritual and medicinal method for healing within.
After years of research studies and clinical trials, scientific and medical researchers are just beginning to understand the effects of psilocybin on the brain and mind.
Psilocybin therapy is a form of healing in psychedelic medicine that is rapidly gaining popularity. Researchers have found that psilocybin has the potential to help treat people with mental illnesses in ways that traditional therapies cannot.
Psilocybin therapy involves a patient ingesting the chemical psilocybin while under careful watch and assistance of an expert therapist. The patient goes on a psychedelic journey in an environment that is safe and controlled, with the therapist facilitating the process. This allows for the patient to experience the effects of psilocybin in a relaxed setting, where they can be sure that their experience is being cautiously monitored.
There are many therapeutic potentials of psilocybin that have been unfortunately covered up by the lasting negative stigmatization and previously held misconceptions around the idea of psychedelic drugs. Scientific research on psychedelics was halted for a long period of time, delaying advances in medical knowledge on the therapeutic uses of psilocybin. While still illegal, unless authorized by Health Canada, there have been significant advances that have been made in studying the chemical properties of psilocybin as well as its potential for therapeutic uses.
The breakthroughs in psilocybin studies have been profound; they show that the properties of psilocybin result in significant changes in brain dynamics and functional connectivity between areas of the brain, which may explain why the effects of psilocybin have been more long-lasting (especially in a shorter time-span) than other forms of therapy.
Specifically, studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers show that psilocybin therapy has been able to benefit those who suffer from chronic illnesses, people with depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s disease, and a wide range of mood and substance disorders.
In a research trial for psychedelic treatment with psilocybin on relieving major depressive disorder symptoms in adults, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers reported that the substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin therapy, given with supportive psychotherapy, may last at least a year for some patients.
The benefits of psilocybin therapy conducted in research studies include the following:
- Improvements in attitude and mood
- Reduced rates of depression
- Lower levels of chronic depression
- Reduced levels of anxiety
- Increased sense of spirituality and connection
- Enhanced quality of life
Psychedelic medicine and psilocybin therapy are on the cusp of entering mainstream psychiatry, with the potential to have great healing benefits for those that have struggled with the modern day treatments for psychiatric and behavioral disorders.
There is a strong push for change in this area of medical treatment. Psilocybin therapy could open the door for new psychedelic treatments tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.
The expanding field of psychedelic medicine for wellness is continuing to explore how the healing powers of mind-altering compounds such as psilocybin can truly benefit those with behavioral disorders and mental illnesses when combined with therapy.
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