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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'

Recreational Use Can Be Dangerous continued...

“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.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either gradually increasing doses or gradually decreasing doses, to test a hypothesis that it might be more effective to start with a high initial dose.

Neither the study participants nor researchers knew what group the participants were in or what dose of the drug they were going to get when they showed up for their sessions.

Sessions were conducted in a lab furnished to look like a living room. Study volunteers were encouraged to wear an eye mask to control visual stimulation and to lie down on a couch. They listened to music through headphones. They were encouraged to inwardly focus their attention. Two trained monitors stayed in the room throughout the test session, which lasted about eight hours.

About 40% of study participants, or seven out of 18, reported feeling extreme anxiety and fear while they were on the two highest doses of the drug. Six of the seven, however, experienced the fear while on the highest dose of the drug. Only one person reported negative fear effects on the 20 mg dose.

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