Can Magic Mushrooms Help Treat Anxiety?

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Australian researchers have been given the green light to study magic mushrooms as a potential treatment for anxiety.

The world-first clinical trial is a huge step forward for the use of psychedelic drugs as a form of psychotherapy, and could be a radical solution for severe anxiety disorders.

Magic mushrooms contain a chemical called psilocybin and it’s that chemical which researchers think could be a real game-changer for treating anxiety.

Dr. Paul Liknaitzky at Monash University is leading the study, which will look into how psilocybin could work alongside psychotherapy sessions.

Over the course of three months, 70 participants will have psychotherapy sessions while dosing psilocybin.

One of the reasons Liknaitzky is excited about the study is that other drug treatments aim to just manage symptoms.

But psychedelic-assisted therapy is thought to work on a deeper level, one that can lead to emotional insights and new perspectives.

Liknaitsky said the role of therapy with psilocybin “is critical”, and that at its core it’s simply a combination of “drug and talk therapy”.

The study will also include a world-first option for therapists taking part, who will be able to receive psilocybin under supportive conditions as well.

Why Is This Study A Big Deal?

Until now, there’ve been no trials of psilocybin as a specific treatment for generalised anxiety disorder.

The condition involves intense anxiety to the point where everyday life can become really difficult.

It affects nearly six per cent of Australians, and the outcomes of existing treatments are questionable; some reports have shown they can come with serious side effects and high rates of relapse.

Some smaller studies in the US have explored psilocybin as a treatment for terminally ill patients, and they showed significant reductions in their anxiety and depression symptoms.

But this new Australian trial will be a world-first opportunity to really understand why those reductions can happen, and how to work with psychedelics as a form of psychotherapy.

Professor Suresh Sundram is the Head of Psychiatry at Monash University, and he’s said that the study is a critical hurdle in testing a potentially game-changing treatment for an illness that’s often under-recognised, poorly treated, and disabling.

Psychedelics & Anxiety Research

Psychedelics, like psilocybin and MDMA, have long been considered dangerous ever since Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” in the 1970s.

Early research in the 1950s suggested psychedelics had therapeutic potential.

But after Nixon’s increased government restrictions on drugs, no human studies were conducted until the early 2000s.

Australia has been a little late to get involved, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration recently released a report on the benefits of MDMA and psilocybin.

The report could potentially see the drugs be reclassified from a schedule 9, to a schedule 8, which basically means they could be used in current therapy, not just in a clinical trial or study.

Australia still needs further research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin.

But this new study at Monash could bring us a step closer to understanding how these drugs work, and potentially make them available as a treatment for those suffering from debilitating anxiety.