In recent years, a popular topic has become the legalization of certain illegal narcotics for legitimate medical purposes. Most popularly, marijuana has been legalized for sale with a prescription in some states for treating an eclectic variety of ailments. Of late, a new illegal drug has emerged on the scene for future potential medical use. Psilocybin, the chemical found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, is being experimented with for use in psychotherapy.
For decades, mushrooms containing the chemical psilocybin have been illegal. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) deemed them as having “no legitimate medical value”. Of late, this ruling is being challenged by scientists working to utilize the chemical in the field of psychotherapy. Psilocybin may prove to be useful in treating patients with mental illnesses and disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and various forms of anxiety and depression.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical. It causes the brain to function abnormally, often causing wild hallucinations. For years, scientists suspected that it caused the brain to become over-active, that the psychedelic effects stemmed from an overload of the brain. Recent tests however have shown that the opposite is quite true. Psilocybin actually slows down the function of certain parts of the brain, namely the posterior cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex.
People who are affected by chronic anxiety or depression usually have a hyperactive posterior cingulate cortex. Research suggests that slowing the activity in this center of the brain with psilocybin could help relieve depression. Researchers published a study in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” in which 30 volunteers were placed in an MRI machine both with and without psilocybin in their bloodstream. While their brains were scanned, they were subjected to a variety of mental stimuli, such as stories and songs. The participants reported that under the influence, they were more relaxed, had improved memory, and more vivid mental perceptions of the stimuli. In follow-up interviews weeks later, the test subjects reported having an improved mental health since the treatment.
Though it’s still a long way off the market, psilocybin has shown great potential for being and effective psychotherapeutic treatment option. The slowing effect of the chemical on key centers of the brain helps to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. It poses the questions; if the benefits amount to enough, should psilocybin become legal for medical purposes? Are there other banned substances that have potential benefits we are missing out on? With people just discovering the positive effects from a plant we’ve know of for years, how many
herbs exist that remain whose resources remain completely unknown and untapped?
Time and science will tell.