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Magic Mushrooms Drug Shows Promise as Therapeutic Tool

Researchers Say Lower Doses Produced Lasting Benefits With Less Risk of a 'Bad Trip'
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Hallucinogens as Therapeutic Tools continued...

“The optimal dose appears to be lower than what we were using,” he says. “You can back the dose down and pretty dramatically, like fivefold, decrease the rates of these fearful anxiety responses while only marginally decreasing the mystical-type experiences.”

Nearly 75% of the study volunteers reported having positive, highly beneficial experiences on the two highest psilocybin doses used in the study. Almost half rated taking the drug in a supportive, therapeutic setting as the single most meaningful experience of their lives.

The study is published in Psychopharmacology.

Recreational Use Can Be Dangerous

This is not to suggest, experts say, that people should use psilocybin or hallucinogenic mushrooms recreationally.

“This is still very much an investigational drug,” says Charles S. Grob, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This study should not at all be suggested to individuals to be trying compounds like this on their own. We’re exploring whether or not there could be a therapeutic application when these drugs are taken within a treatment setting,” says Grob, who studies psilocybin but was not involved in the current research.

There are important safeguards when psilocybin is tested in clinical settings that are not in place when the drugs are used recreationally.

For one thing, doctors are testing standardized doses of psilocybin that are given in capsules.

“No one really knows, if they’re taking mushrooms, what the content of the psilocybin is,” Griffiths says. “Within mushrooms, the content of psilocybin can vary tenfold.”

And very rarely, he says, people have become so fearful or panicked that they have reportedly jumped out of windows or run into traffic. Also, for certain individuals with a genetic predisposition, hallucinogens may tip their brains into psychosis.

“For people who have some vulnerability to psychotic disorder, this might push them over the edge into schizophrenia,” he says.

Tracking the Effects of Psilocybin

For the study, Griffiths and his team recruited 18 physically and mentally healthy adults.

Each study participant was given four doses of psilocybin, with a month between each dose. Doses were based on body size and were 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, or 30 mg for every 154 pounds of body weight. A placebo dose was also given.

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