Psychedelic Mushrooms Can Boost Mental Health, Researchers Say

By Eliza Strickland | July 2, 2008 8:44 am

magic mushroomsMedical research is getting a little groovier. In a new report, scientists declared that the active ingredient in hallucinogenic “magic mushrooms” had beneficial effects on test subjects who took the substance under a doctor’s supervision. What’s more, the effects lingered; 14 months after the experiment, more than half the subjects reported still feeling an increase in well-being or life satisfaction, in terms of things like feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible and optimistic [AP].

The experiment was one of the few conducted in the four decades since the government cracked down on hallucinogens, banning most research and listing them as a dangerous drugs. Researchers say the study marks another shift in policy, which could yield research with dramatic insights. “These drugs are no longer being confined to rats in test tubes,” said David Nichols, a Purdue University pharmacologist who was not involved in the study. “What we’re looking at is a largely unexplored technology for brain science — it was discovered in the 1940s, set the psychiatry world ablaze in the 1950s, and was aborted by widespread recreational abuse, the reaction of the media and its confluence with the Vietnam war” [Wired News].

In the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology [subscription required], researchers gave test subjects doses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in some wild mushrooms, and directed the volunteers to lie down, listen to classical music, and “look inward.” When the trip was over, many described life-changing mystical experiences of the sort typically reported by monks, saints and other devoutly religious. Even those who experienced fear or sadness rated the experience as spiritually important, and no one reported long-lasting negative effects [Baltimore Sun].

The report was accompanied by another article [subscription required] which laid out the guideline for safe and ethical research on psilocybin: The drug is only given to people with no history of psychosis or serious mental disorders, and psychological support is provided during and after the experience [Los Angeles Times]. The psilocybin researchers also stressed that they’re not encouraging people to take hallucinogens outside the controlled setting of a lab, and added that the powerful substances can provoke fear and panic.

While some researchers hope to use psilocybin for scientific inquiry into the nature of human spirituality, others have more objective medical goals. Researchers say they’ll conducting further studies to examine whether the mushrooms can help people with such wide-ranging ailments as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and alcoholism, as well as people who are coping with a cancer diagnosis. For an in-depth look at how hallucinogens have snuck back into the lab, check out DISCOVER’s recent story, “Could an Acid Trip Cure Your OCD?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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  • Trichster

    I have trichotillomania, which is a form of OCD. In layman’s terms, it’s compulsive hair pulling. I can attest to this drug helping with me looking inward and communicating with my brain in a form of healing and trying to come to terms with my disorder. I think hallucinogens are extremely powerful tools for mental health and all the fear-mongering our society rants about them are emotionally and politically driven. If everybody could have a life-changing experience just once think about how enlightened our society could potentially become. It’s too bad the downsides of abuse and “bad trips” would sour further research, like it has done in the past.

  • Someguy

    It’s an amazing substance that deserves better and more attention.

  • Void Shaman

    It really is no surprise, shamans and medicine men have been using these and other natural plants/fungi for great spiritual journies. Its just a shame how closed, cold and fear driven our world has become. Let’s hope for some inward and outward change soon.

  • Rev. Scott

    It’s amazing what the Creator put here for us to use. Too bad man has such a penchant for controlling what others do. We could really be farther along as a species if we would just stop worrying about what people do and think more about what we are capable of.

  • Anon

    I have never felt a feeling of well being and peace like I did after my first mushroom trip. I went for a night out with friends after the hallucinations had stopped and had a great night and best of all had no urge to drink alcohol what so ever. It’s amazing that only know this is becoming common knowledge. While maybe not suitable for all people and certainly not all situations I would certainly recommend that you try them at least once in your life.

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  • Phil E. Drifter

    Hey Rev. Scott: you’re a religitard. There is no god. Get over it. But it’s exactly drugs like this (and cannabis, and peyote) which gives man the kinds of feelings and insight as to think there’s some greater purpose in life. I have a feeling you simply can’t grasp, can’t ‘wrap your head around’ how long a million or 500,000 years would be. People like you refuse to believe that the grand canyon was created by water flow over a period of thousands of years during early earth when the planet was being bombarded by meteorites.

    Organized religion is a sham that plays on peoples’ fear of death to extract money from them with a promise of eternal salvation. While you diddle little boys in the sanctuary.

  • stay and see

    Phil E. Drifter, pay attention.
    Rev. Scott did not say anything negative towards this article nor did he try to push his beliefs on anybody reading.
    From the negative tone of your comment I feel that you have missed the point of the mentality of a good trip. You made far too many assumptions above, a telling sign of your actual intelligence. Stop acting like you know everything (making an anonymous unjustified attack on a comment string )
    I am not religious myself but who are you to tell someone that they cannot be?

  • funguymon

    All drugs need to be legalized. Who is to say what I can and cannot put in my body?

  • Michael M.

    I’m going to tell you all something very seriously here. I have done a lot more magic mushrooms than whoever so carelessly titled this thesis and I will offer this: Mushrooms can destroy your life if not taken extraordinarily seriously.

    If like the article mentioned you only did them once, I agree it could have a great benefit, but I do believe they are illegal for a reason. They are highly dangerous and can lead to altering your personality and ruining your most valued relationships.

  • Brian

    A combination of decriminalization and licensing is likely to be the most promising approach, hopefully somewhere between the chaos of people buying shrooms at 7-11 and the senselessness of people going to jail for having them.

    By instituting a system of standards and qualifications, educated psychiatric professionals could graduate with a focus on plant medicines and take a psychedelic practitioner exam drafted by a team of experts. A psychiatrist who passes this exam could then open up a clinic where his patients could come in like any other therapy session, only with the assistance of psylocibin (or LSD, MDMA, Salvia, DMT, Peyote, Iboga, or Ayahuasca, each of which having its own entirely distinct therapeutic potential). Licenses could also be granted to spiritual centers that meet similar qualifications.

    The bad trips and irresponsibility that inspire panic in the masses could be prevented by this system, and the unending benefits of these sacred medicines would finally become available to a public that is crippled by neuroses and desperately in need of a reconnection with the mysteries of the universe.

    It’s a tragedy that clear heads have yet to prevail in this debate. There’s no reason for psychedelics to be illegal. There is, however, a myriad of reasons for the human race to put as much attention it can spare towards understanding and exploring the psychedelic experience. There is quite simply no time to waste, and yet, considering it has to crawl and limp through liberal academia, how can common sense hope to penetrate the poisoned waters of the public’s misled attitude towards psychedelics, much less survive a trip to Washington?

  • emmaaaa

    Michael M., your situation is a very rare one. Most people do not develop even a psychological addiction to mushrooms, and in fact are quite willing to wait months or years in between trips. It’s good to warn people, but don’t frighten them away. The chances of getting addicted to mushrooms are not very high.

    Rev. Scott, while our religions may not be compatible in all ways, I agree that our Earth brings forth the most fantastic natural remedies that the government has no business trying to control and manipulate. Well said!

    Phil E. Drifter, your hostile reaction to a suggestion of religion shows how small-minded and intolerant you are. You’re absolutely no better than the religious fanatics.

    Also…yeah psilocybin.

  • Matthew

    One realises when reading the comments made, that our worldly consciousness is changing rapidly. We have a Rev. putting his 5c. Some extremely educated replies which are by the way ‘so damn good to read’. I feel we’re entering an era of profound awakening. That of which will not cease until nature has restored the balance!

    Change is on the wind.

  • paul8bee

    The only problem with magic mushrooms and other hallucinogens is the matter of dosage. A single dose, can be very pleasant and enlightening: but an overdose can cause problems: but still yet a Lethal dose can cause death.
    In 1976 I found these magic mushrooms growing in the field at the back of my house. The first time I ate only 8 single mushrooms.
    It was a grand experience that opened my eyes up. I started picking then to save for the rest of the year when the season would be over. I would go out and collect bread bags full of them.
    The problem was that I could never get enough. I ate everything I picked. The last eating session I consumed over 2000 Vancouver island Magic Mushrooms in one night. I believe I came close to the lethal dose that night. I have never eaten magic mushrooms again, even thou they still grow in my back yard.
    It could be that I am a lucky soul to have eaten so many. I never got addicted to street drugs. Pretty well every drug you can think of is crap, compared to magic mushrooms.
    The professional medical community may well investigate this fungus. I however think that when they isolate the active ingredient, that they will find a way to ‘INCREASE” it potency. Then there will be problems. I ate only a full bread bag full. The new generation will only have to swallow a pill to get 100 times more.

  • anon

    First time I ever had mushrooms, I took 1/8 with some chocolate, and let me just say that after that night I have never looked at things in the same way. Shrooms are definitely a life changing substance. Everyone should take them at least once in their lifetime.

  • Bill

    Michael M, your problem is completely your fault. Your own carelessness caused it.

  • rad-j

    This is EVIL mushrooms are da devil. Before long, people are gonna start havin sex in the street and murdering one another over their next fix. Drugs are bad, mmmmkay? no one needs to do drugs. I am not a proponent of the use of this illicit substance. THIS STATEMENT IS not SUGGESTING THAT EVERYONE GO OUT AND DO SOME PERSONAL RESEARCH OF THEIR OWN. =)

  • jrad

    Paul8Bee, why on earth would anyone up the dosage? if we know where the lethality marker is, why would we push it. Besides, aren’t they strong enough as is? and I think most people agree. Your statement is kinda like saying that because heroin can be put into a lethal form, heroin users will up their dosages to a lethal level. Its not a perfect example, I know, but just because something can be done doesn’t mean its going to be done.

  • Todd

    I think its a wonderful drug that everyone in a normal state of should experience at least once in their lives. Phychedelic mushrooms are a gift from God and should be looked at as such. These mushrooms have been used for a sense of spiritual fulfillness since humans existed. I think the main reason that there illegal is because of the fact that it has the power to make one more creative and give that person a look outside the box. We live in a World where very few make the rules of us all and the people in control don’t want a society of thinkers they want workers that is the main reason there illegal. DON’T KNOCK IT UNTIL YOU TRY IT!

  • Adam

    Paul8bee: You did not eat close to the lethal dose of magic mushrooms. It’s impossible. The LD-50 is so high (the amount of mgs that will kill you 50% of the time) that you would die from over-eating before you OD’d on psilocybin. You would have to eat like 40 pounds of mushrooms :)

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  • kore

    All drugs and I mean all of them can cause allergic reaccion to “SOME” people. Take for example penicillin it is one of the most revolutionary drugs nowadays, but SOME people just can take it. It is the same with all other drugs, some people cannot take cannabis because it causes them secoundary effect like paranoia attacks or respiratory problems. Now if you are a first time user of any drug and you do not know wheather it will cause you a problem them you should be careful and only take a small dosis, wait and see and them slowly increase the dosis. The lack of knowledge and guidence causes most of mishappenings.
    I have never heard of anyone who died beacause of the used of shrroms.. and come on the guy that discovered LSD died at the age of 100 and something after a long life of the use of LSD and psilocybin.

  • Paul8bee

    You are a gunnies.
    Addiction has little to do with Mushrooms and Heroin.
    It was like I was trying to get to the next level of existence.
    It was like this world was not enough.
    Death would have been glorious, simply because there would have been no death.
    Just a trip to a higher plane.
    But now I know that I was INSANE
    It wasn’t just the shchooms it was the way I thought.
    I can’t blame anyone for teaching me to be nuts.
    But a good schoom trip is well worth a go.
    Trouble is that in the end. the World is still the same.
    You need people . and being high on mushrooms will not get you very far.
    It all depends on your goals.
    do you want to ascend to the next level, and stay there?
    You will need food and water.
    It is almost like the religious were stoned when they wrote the bible.
    They were looking for Nirvana, or some garden of eden.

    I ate pounds and pound of that stuff.
    I can’t weigh it, But I was consuming a full bread bag or two of mushrooms each and every day.

    the last trip I think I had 800 in a bag. I put them into a toilet, but I could not flush them down.
    I scooped them up and ate them anyway.
    that was my life changing moment.


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  • Grant

    Everyone should take mushrooms once in life, and you will never look back.
    The world would be a better place, I’m not religious or a drug user and it’s changed my life for the good, it fixed my o.c.ds and confidence gremlins. What an amazing experience, for the first time in my life I felt re born, I have changed for the better, so people who are thinking of trying just do it and you won’t look back, you can thank me later and welcome to the club, enjoy and roll with the trip and don’t fight it, ride the trip and you will discover yourself, good luck !!!!

  • Ash Tree Meadow

    This article is interesting to me. I know there are many things in nature that have immense health benefits that we are either unaware of or just learning about. I know there are many things that governments around the world have banned from their societies. I believe in the end we need to be very clear about our stances on these substances. I’ve seen posts here from one extreme to the next. One writer will say all things should be legal, and another writer says differently. It is important to remember some keys things about our world we often forget when considering laws regarding “drugs”.

    If we were all able to do as we please, this world would be in an even bigger mess than we are. History always repeats itself and what we know about history is that man makes some REALLY bad life choices that bring mass destruction and chaos. Man cannot be trusted to his own heart and mind because even the nicest man is capable of making awful and harmful choices. We should not be afraid of boundaries and laws that guide us. I am not saying I agree with all laws and ideas that any government promotes, but I am saying that a great number of them are healthy for the masses.

    If substances like this one were to be completely legalized, who knows what type of mass chaos would ensue. I would love to say that everyone would partake healthily, learn things about their minds, and have great spiritual insights like the monks and shamans, but in reality, as we have seen in history, man cannot be trusted as a whole.

  • JeffHigher

    Phil E Drifter.. I would say from what you said, that you have not grasped all that you can from this kind of experience. Each mushroom trip I have had has pushed me to greather heights spiritually, mentally, and psychologically… I have tripped out during some difficult times in my life, and I have always come away a better person.. Here is my tip to you.. Everything simply is.. Do not worry so much.. Just live…

  • adam

    i live in new zealand and i think the shrooms here maybe a little different but i could go on for days about my awesome experiences.One thing though i know for sure is it shuts out alot of the less important things that trouble us in life and when thinking while tripping the answers to things you couldnt possibly know become clear and right in front of you.Also evry time it has enhanced my eyesight and hearing,being able to see further and clearer at night you could see a cat cross the street up to 1000metres away with only mild street lighting,but remember there are different kinds of them all over the world some with different effects. well i hope this info can give some 1st timers a helpfull insight into this wonderfull drug of the earth (:


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