Psilocybin and PTSD

Psilocybin and PTSD

Extreme trauma especially repeated trauma, causes major brain damage, leading to neurological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Healing the brain of these conditions is incredibly difficult. New research at the University of South Florida suggests that psychedelic mushrooms may actually be able to heal the brain damage and help people move forward.

Move past your fears
This finding corroborates the results found by scientists at Imperial College London. They conducted a study, where they trained the mice to fear a certain sound by administering a shock each time they played it. After a period of time, the mice were paralyzed hearing the noise even without any shock. However, they had given psilocybin (an ingredient in “magic” mushrooms) to some of the mice beforehand. Those ones overcame their fear response much more quickly than the control group.

These results are incredibly promising, especially given the prevalence of PTSD. The PTSD Alliance estimates that five percent of U.S. citizens suffer from PTSD. That’s more than 13 million people. PTSD is very common in veterans, who maintain the reactions they developed in combat even once they’re back in a safe situation. It’s also very common for women, especially those who experience rape or domestic violence.

Not just mental
For a long time, people thought PTSD was entirely psychological and could be treated through therapy. However, this new research indicates that it might be the result of actual physical mutations in the brain, especially in the hippocampus.

In the study of mice with fear responses to noise, the fearful mice had overactive prefrontal cortexes, so they were too vigilant and could be overwhelmed too easily. Those mice who were treated with psilocybin had their prefrontal cortexes return to normal activity, plus their brain cells rejuvenated more quickly.

Did they trip out?
Of course, because they used mice, it’s impossible for the scientists to know whether or not they also experienced the hallucinations that are associated with mushrooms. However, other research suggests that the doses were probably too low to be psychedelic, which indicates that low doses could also be used in people with PTSD without causing hallucinations.

Further research is going to be difficult to carry out since mushrooms are still a Schedule I drug – which means the government doesn’t believe they have any medical benefits and researchers need special permission to administer them to volunteers.

The potential in mushrooms
PTSD is an extremely harmful disease, with an average of 18 veterans committing suicide every day, mostly due to its symptoms and/or depression. While some treatments, like herbal remedies and meditation, have been shown to reduce symptoms, the pharmaceuticals that are typically used have not been proven. With further research, it’s possible that mushrooms could be a hugely beneficial treatment for PTSD.

There is still room for future research, and results so far indicate that psilocybin could be a uniquely powerful medicine. Hopefully, scientists will continue to have the opportunity to learn about all of its benefits.

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