New Hope on Depression

Everyone has experience feeling down, worries, and sadness at some point, and many people pass through the feeling and move on hoping that happiness is just around the corner. However, there are people who can not overcome fear or uneasiness, loss, or sadness. Unfortunately, major depressive disorders affect approximately 17.3 million American adults, or about 7.1% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, according to 2017 National Institute of Mental Health, and 1.9 million children age 3 – 17, have diagnosed depression ( according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health”, 2018). Then, among those with depression, they also have serious health issues such as cancer, heart attack, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and more. When it comes to anxiety disorder, there are even more people diagnosed. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You, your friends, or your family member might be taking medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Fetzima, or Parnate along with weekly or monthly therapy session. Instead of using pharmaceutical manufactured prescription drugs, some people use cannabis and now scientists are talking about psychedelic substances like magic mushroom.  

As said by Wikipedia, 18 states are fully legalized for using and possessing cannabis (quantity is limited, and details are different among states), and medical use of cannabis is allowed in many states. However, I haven’t met anyone who has been treated with cannabis and is off from all other medication.   

Last November, JAMA Psychiatry published a study of psychedelic substance, psilocybin for adults with major depression conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers. Psilocybin is a compound found in magic mushrooms. This study showed rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms, and half of the study participants achieved remission through the four-week follow-up.  The interesting ppoint to the study is that patients not only received psilocybin but also long hours of psychotherapy. Also, each treatment session lasted approximately five hours, with the participant lying on a couch wearing eyeshades and headphones that played music, in the presence of the monitors. Another study at the Imperial College on depression offered patients an oral dose of psilocybin. They were placed in a room with a bed, surrounded with flowers and candles, and guided through traumas, significant past events, and formative memories by a psychological support team, which included registered psychiatrists. 

These treatments are called psilocybin-assisted therapy. You can find many clinics offer the service when you search internet. There are treatments using other psychedelic drugs such as MDMA aka “ecstasy” or “molly,” LSD, ayahuasca and ibogaine. The reason why these psychedelic drugs work is, as stated by Jennifer Mitchell, a neuroscientist and professor in the departments of neurology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California San Francisco, that psychedelics can “reshape” the parts of the brain that talk to each other. Several studies show that psilocybin increases neuroplasticity, changing and reshaping neurons in the brain. Addiction, anxiety, trauma, and depression can create negative changes in brain chemistry, as the mind learns to take pleasure or stress from external cues. Psilocybin seems to help restore the brain to a pre-addicted state. 

As cannabis is legalized in many states, legalization of magic mushroom has started with Oregon, and there is a possibility that more states will follow. However, I believe that just eating magic mushroom won’t cure the mental and/or behavioral issues.   The treatment needs the therapy that helps open up the core issues. I hope more of these treatment centers/clinics will open in the near future.  

Reference:

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2772630?resultClick=1

Magic mushroom compound performs as well as antidepressant in small study | Imperial News | Imperial College London

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/11/04/931377532/rigorous-study-backs-a-psychedelic-treatment-for-major-depression

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/24/how-psychedelic-assisted-therapy-with-mdma-and-psilocybin-works.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S._jurisdiction

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