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Psilocybin and Mental Health: Unveiling the Therapeutic Power of Magic Mushrooms

Psilocybin is a psychedelic chemical present in over a hundred species of mushrooms and has been gaining popularity for its magnificent use in mental health. It can also be produced synthetically in a laboratory. Naturally found in magic mushrooms, the compound interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain and triggers several psychedelic effects.

Let us learn more about psilocybin and its therapeutic benefits for mental health.

What are Magic Mushrooms and What is Psilocybin?

Magic mushrooms, also known as Psilocybin mushrooms, are the types of mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a naturally occurring chemical substance that can be used to improve mental health. These magic mushrooms are a polyphyletic informal group of fungi containing psilocybin.

Psilocybin is naturally found in numerous species of basidiomycetes fungi, a phylum of filamentous fungi, collectively known as magic mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin can also be produced synthetically.

Depending on the person who is being administered psilocybin and its dosage, this psychedelic chemical substance can cause euphoria, changes in perception, perceived spiritual experiences, and also feelings of detachment.

How Does Psilocybin Work?

Psilocybin is usually ingested orally, either as fresh or dried mushrooms, via powder in a capsule or a pill, brewed as tea, or added to other foods. The psychedelic effects of psilocybin include visual and auditory hallucinations, a distorted sense of space and time, and altered mood.

Upon ingestion, psilocybin is metabolized to produce psilocin, which is an active form of the chemical compound. Psilocin activates serotonin 5-HT2a receptors present on cortical pyramidal cells in the brain. These cortical pyramidal cells are “the major computational units of the brain”. When these receptors get activated, psilocin alters brain metabolic activity and neuronal connectivity and influences cognitive function and perception.

Psilocybin and Its Role In Mental Health

About one billion people across the world live with some sort of mental health disorder. (1) Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some examples of mental health disorders. According to a study published in September 2023, it has been mentioned that approximately half the world’s population can expect to develop any type of mental health disorder by age 75. (2)

Psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can help in reducing the symptoms of mental health disorders. (3, 4) However, they are not equally effective for every individual.  Thus, researchers are continuously looking at alternative treatments that could help. The use of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin could be one alternative method for treating mental disorders.

A study from the University of Southern Denmark has explained that micro-dosing on or taking extremely small doses of psilocybin could have a significant effect on mental health disorders. This study was conducted in rat models. The study was published in the journal ‘Nature- Molecular Psychiatry”. (5)

Psilocybin can cause self-described “spiritual” experiences, and this can result in positive changes in one’s attitude, behavior, and mood. Psilocybin elevates a personality quality known as “openness” in people, which encompasses imagination, sensitivity, and an appreciation for the values and opinions of others.

This enhanced openness found in individuals who take psilocybin might be linked with the psychedelic chemical’s ability to increase neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to create new connections. However, further research is required to determine the real potential of psilocybin in helping people with mental health disorders.

Psilocybin and its Role in Treating Depression

Psilocybin has become a new approach to treating depression. For example, recent papers from Johns Hopkins (6) and Imperial College (7, 8) have demonstrated the benefits of psilocybin in promoting positive lifestyle changes, and as an intervention for treating depression.

The neurobiological changes associated with clinical response in patients with depression were explored by Carhart-Harris et al. (7) It was demonstrated that all participants had a reduction in their symptoms post-treatment with psilocybin and this symptom reduction was associated with lower cerebral blood flow in the amygdala.

Psilocybin and its Benefit in Treating Anxiety

Recent studies complement earlier studies using psilocybin as a means of reducing anxiety and depression in the case of terminal cancer patients. (9) Despite the growth of supportive studies, the actual understanding of how psilocybin might be beneficial, is still not very clear, and progress in this regard needs to be made.

Psilocybin for Smoking Cessation and Anorexia Nervosa

Psilocybin has shown impressive results in smoking cessation and anorexia nervosa treatment studies. However, large-scale clinical studies are required for further investigation regarding the benefit of psilocybin for smoking cessation and anorexia nervosa.

How Long Do The Effects of Psilocybin Last?

Psilocybin enters the brain quickly and if it has been ingested orally, the effects peak in about 60 to 90 minutes after taking it. Mostly, it is said that the active effects of psilocybin last about 4 to 8 hours, and after 24 hours, the drug is completely gone from the body.

Risks of Psilocybin Treatment

Psilocybin does not work for everyone, and how well the psychedelic drug works varies from one individual to the other. Additionally, in certain cases, psilocybin could be harmful. Some of the possible risks of psilocybin treatment include nausea, headache, fatigue, and dizziness. Sometimes, some persons taking psilocybin or other psychedelics can have panic reactions and confusion. Psilocybin can also cause people to make bad decisions and lead to distress. Thus, it should only be taken under the supervision of trained therapists and healthcare providers.


The outlook of psilocybin in treating mental disorders and improving mental health is pretty hopeful. However, the research in this matter should continue to understand what works best for whom and what could be the safe doses. But till then, it must be noted that psilocybin should not be mistakenly thought to be a cure-all for mental disorders. Every mental health issue should be properly diagnosed by a psychiatrist or a specialist doctor and medically treated to get the best results.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 8, 2024

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