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Can psychedelic mushrooms trigger psychosis? 

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In the hours leading up to my first magic mushroom experience, I was overwhelmed with conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, I was exhilarated by friends’ tales of wandering the woods in a state of psychedelic wonder and oneness. But on the other hand, there was also a sense of trepidation. Urban legends of people who have hit the mushies hard and never been the same again played over in my mind and made me wonder whether I should rethink the trip I’d planned. (I went ahead with it, but ended up microdosing.)

For a long time, hearsay, anecdotes, and your friend’s cousin’s brother were the go-to sources for magic mushroom information. Nowadays, psilocybin is making its way into high-profile clinical drug trials, and scientists are investigating its therapeutic versatility in treating various  mental health conditions, like depression and PTSD. As a result, we have more access to a diversity of reliable data on this psychedelic compound and its effects. 

But for many of us, an unnerving question remains: Is there even the slightest chance that psilocybin can make you go crazy?

Psilocybin, psilocin, and short-term psychosis

When a person consumes magic mushrooms, the main compound in them—psilocybin—is quickly converted by the body into psilocin, its active form. Psilocin is responsible for the psychedelic effects of shrooms and plays a major role in the trip that unfolds. However, in the same way that cannabis is composed of thousands of compounds, magic mushrooms contain a host of active compounds that may also shape and contribute to the psychedelic experience.

Although magic mushroom journeys are unique for everyone, they often share typical features. Those who consume a standard or medium dose of magic mushrooms (about 1.75 grams) often find that the effects kick in after 30-60 minutes; peak effects occur around the 1- to 2-hour mark; and the trip lasts from four to six hours, with a lingering afterglow in the hours or days that follow. 

During the journey, users can experience mood swings and intense emotions, mystical experiences, a warped sense of time, ego dissolution (a loss of one’s sense of self), confused thoughts, hallucinations, and delusions. 

However, delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized or confused thinking or speaking are also hallmark characteristics of psychosis and schizophrenia

Psychosis is a term that describes when an individual has lost contact with reality and is experiencing difficulty understanding what is real and what isn’t. Psychosis can be a symptom of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (during depression and/or mania), but it can also be caused by sleep deprivation, an injury, a traumatic experience, certain prescription medications, or hallucinogenic substances—like psilocybin. 

In addition to hallucinations, delusions, and confused thinking, other symptoms of psychosis can include intense new ideas, strange feelings or no feelings at all, paranoid ideas, or difficulty concentrating. 

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What are psychedelic mushrooms and psilocybin?

It’s important to understand that, in general, psychosis is considered a symptom, not a mental health condition (unlike schizophrenia). The duration of a psychotic episode depends on the cause. An episode that may be triggered by a substance, for example, typically has a short duration, lasting only while the substance is active in the person’s body. Psychotic episodes linked to a mental health condition such as schizophrenia, however, can last for days, months, or even longer. 

The parallels between the symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, and psilocybin journeys are well-known. Psilocybin has been used in clinical research to model psychosis, and the experiences that typically arise during a magic mushroom trip can look like a form of temporary psychosis.

“In some individuals, psilocybin can trigger short-term psychotic episodes during a trip,” explained Dr. Sam Zand, psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Better U. Zand points out that although short-term psychosis may arise during a psilocybin trip and can feel frightening, it isn’t necessarily harmful.

“[It’s scary] because it involves losing touch with reality, which can be disorienting and distressing,” said Zand. “Additionally, the effects of psilocybin can include intense and confusing thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, which can also contribute to feelings of fear or anxiety. The unpredictability of the experience can also add to the fear, as the individual may not know what to expect and may feel out of control.” 

However, Zand emphasizes that it’s vital to remember that the effects of psilocybin are temporary, and they typically subside as the trip wears off.

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How to dose psychedelic mushrooms

Can short-term psychosis be beneficial?

Although psilocybin can bring on challenging or frightening experiences, those experiences may in fact yield unique benefits.

“Individuals may have beneficial therapeutic effects despite a negative experience during the psilocybin experience,” explained Dr. Robert Alexander, Chief Medical Officer at Reunion Neuroscience. “However, it may be hard to keep one’s perspective when experiencing frightening illusions, the loss of ego boundaries or intense emotions.”

In one survey of almost 2,000 psilocybin mushroom users, researchers found that a psychologically difficult trip positively and significantly correlated to an experience of enhanced personal meaning, spiritual significance, and increased life satisfaction. In addition, 84% of participants believed that they had benefited from their challenging experience.

Other research stresses similar findings, with most participants reflecting that unpleasant experiences during bad trips had ultimately been beneficial, yielding deep existential and life-altering insights. Some psychedelic experts strongly believe that a temporary state of psychosis may enable the emergence of new perceptions and more flexible, creative ways of thinking. 

One researcher refers to psychosis as a double-edged sword: While the experience can feel immensely challenging, it may also be healing and life-changing. In this way, a temporary experience of psychosis during a psilocybin trip isn’t necessarily something to be avoided or feared. 

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How long do magic mushrooms stay in your system?

Can psilocybin trigger long-term psychosis or schizophrenia, or exacerbate existing conditions?

Several 2022 systematic reviews have outlined the safety of psilocybin. The first, a review of studies investigating the use of psilocybin for psychiatric disorders, reported that there had been no significant adverse clinical events from psilocybin to date, and no verifiable recorded deaths. The second, a review of clinical studies exploring the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, found that psilocybin had a positive benefit-risk balance in the treatment of mental disorders and few serious adverse events reported. 

Dr. Alexander emphasizes that although short-term psychotic episodes can occur during a psilocybin trip, prolonged psychosis that persists for a day or longer is extremely rare. There are, however, several case studies that suggest that the compound could potentially (temporarily) worsen existing cases of schizophrenia or detrimentally affect individuals with existing mental health conditions.

In the first of these case studies, the individual had a history of schizophrenia and experienced severe mood swings, hallucinations, and delusions after consuming a handful of psilocybin mushrooms with cannabis twice daily. He was given an antipsychotic, and his symptoms improved over two weeks. 

In another case, a man with a 10-year history of paranoid schizophrenia experienced mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia, and compulsive thoughts after taking psilocybin mushrooms for an unspecified amount of time. However, his symptoms disappeared within days with no pharmacological treatment. 

While a few other cases exist, the limited data and confounding variables (such as the co-use of cannabis in the first case study) mean that it’s difficult to draw a definitive conclusion about the role psilocybin played in these episodes. 

Nonetheless, both Alexander and Zand recommend that people with current psychosis symptoms or a prior history of psychosis or schizophrenia may be at a higher risk of adverse effects and should therefore avoid psilocybin. 

“The importance of caution and consulting with a mental health professional before using any psychoactive substance cannot be stressed enough, especially for those with a history of mental health concerns,” said Zand.

It’s also crucial to consider whether psilocybin could detrimentally affect an individual with a family history or genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia or psychosis. Currently, there’s insufficient data, so many researchers and clinicians adopt a cautious approach and generally exclude people at high risk from participating in psychedelic therapy. 

“It’s unclear whether a positive family history of psychosis should be exclusionary [for taking psilocybin],” explained Dr. Alexander. “The concern is that the psychedelic could precipitate psychosis; there have been anecdotal reports of this happening with recreational LSD use, although it appears to be extremely rare in a therapeutic setting.”

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Psychedelic medicine: The benefits of psychedelics

Tips for tripping with magic mushrooms

Drs. Alexander and Zand both emphasize that factors such as dosage, mindset, and setting can influence whether an individual experiences temporary psychosis during a psilocybin trip or not, and the subsequent nature of the experience.

Surveys suggest that the frequency of challenging experiences rises as the psilocybin dose increases. While this doesn’t mean higher doses should necessarily be avoided, it’s something to be aware of for those experimenting with psilocybin. Generally, a microdose is unlikely to kick off hallucinations, while a heroic dose will likely have you seeing, feeling, and hearing things that physically aren’t there.

“Dosage can play a significant role in the likelihood of experiencing psychosis,” explained Zand. “Higher doses of psilocybin can increase the risk of adverse effects, including short-term psychotic episodes. It’s important to follow proper dosing guidelines and start with low doses, especially for individuals who are new to psilocybin.” 

Having the right mindset and setting are other critical factors that can profoundly influence a psilocybin trip’s twists, turns, and ultimate outcome. In this context, mindset means approaching a psilocybin journey with an open, relaxed, and curious state of mind; setting means undertaking the journey in a comfortable and safe place, ideally with someone experienced holding space with you. This way, if you experience hallucinations or other uncomfortable feelings, they will be more manageable. 

According to Zand, “The importance of preparation, including setting a clear intention, creating a safe and supportive environment, and engaging in breathwork practices, cannot be overstated in reducing the risk of adverse effects and enhancing the therapeutic potential of the experience.”

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Emma Stone

Emma Stone is a journalist based in New Zealand specializing in cannabis, health, and well-being. She has a Ph.D. in sociology and has worked as a researcher and lecturer, but loves being a writer most of all. She would happily spend her days writing, reading, wandering outdoors, eating and swimming.

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LSD-Based Medication Yields Rapid, Durable Response

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A recent study discussed on Medscape reveals that an LSD-based medication shows promising results in providing rapid and durable responses in patients. This medication has demonstrated effectiveness in improving symptoms with sustained benefits over time, highlighting its potential as a novel treatment option for certain psychiatric conditions.

Promising Results for LSD-Based Medication

Introduction to the Study

A groundbreaking study has shown that a medication based on LSD can offer rapid and long-lasting relief from psychiatric symptoms. This research suggests significant potential for the treatment of mental health disorders.

Key Findings

The study found that patients experienced quick and sustained improvements in their symptoms after taking the LSD-based medication. The effects were durable, indicating long-term benefits and stability in mental health.

Mechanism of Action

LSD’s interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain is believed to play a crucial role in its therapeutic effects. This interaction helps modulate mood, perception, and cognition, contributing to its effectiveness in treating psychiatric conditions.

Implications for Mental Health Treatment

These findings highlight the potential of LSD-based medications to revolutionize the treatment of mental health disorders. The rapid onset of relief and durability of effects make it a promising option for patients with conditions that are resistant to traditional treatments.

Why This Is Important

The study’s results underscore the need for innovative approaches in mental health treatment. LSD-based medications could provide new hope for patients who have not responded to conventional therapies.

Possible Implications

  1. New Treatment Options: Introduction of novel medications for psychiatric conditions.
  2. Further Research: Increased interest in studying the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
  3. Regulatory Changes: Potential adjustments in drug regulations to accommodate new treatment options.
  4. Healthcare Integration: Integration of psychedelic-based therapies into mainstream mental health care.
  5. Patient Outcomes: Improved outcomes for patients with treatment-resistant mental health disorders.

What to Follow

  • Clinical Trials: Ongoing and future trials to validate and expand on these findings.
  • Regulatory Developments: Changes in policies regarding the use of psychedelics in medicine.
  • Market Trends: Adoption and commercialization of LSD-based medications.
  • Patient Experiences: Feedback and results from patients using these new treatments.

Conclusion

The study on LSD-based medication offers a promising new avenue for treating mental health disorders. With rapid and durable responses, this medication could significantly impact the field of psychiatry, providing new hope for patients and healthcare providers.

Source: Medscape, The study



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Health

Veterans with PTSD Experience Benefits from Service Dogs

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A study published in JAMA Network Open reveals that service dogs significantly improve mental health outcomes for veterans with PTSD. The presence of service dogs helps reduce PTSD symptoms, including depression and anxiety, and enhances overall well-being. This research supports the therapeutic benefits of service dogs in providing emotional support and improving the quality of life for veterans struggling with PTSD.

Service Dogs as Therapeutic Allies for Veterans with PTSD

Introduction to the Study

A new study has revealed that veterans with PTSD gain significant mental health benefits from having service dogs. This finding emphasizes the therapeutic potential of service animals in managing PTSD symptoms.

Key Findings

The study found that veterans with service dogs reported reduced PTSD symptoms, including lower anxiety and depression levels, compared to those without service dogs. Additionally, these veterans experienced improved overall well-being and quality of life.

Therapeutic Benefits

Service dogs provide various forms of support that can help mitigate PTSD symptoms. These include:

  • Emotional Support: Helping veterans feel calmer and more secure.
  • Physical Assistance: Assisting with daily tasks and providing a sense of routine.
  • Social Interaction: Encouraging socialization and reducing feelings of isolation.

Importance of the Findings

These findings highlight the potential of service dogs as a complementary treatment for PTSD. They underscore the need for increased access to service dogs for veterans and further research into their benefits.

Why This Is Important

Understanding the benefits of service dogs for PTSD can inform treatment approaches and policies, improving support for veterans. It also highlights the need for broader recognition and funding for service dog programs.

Possible Implications

  1. Enhanced Access: Increased provision of service dogs to veterans in need.
  2. Policy Support: Development of policies to support service dog programs.
  3. Further Research: More studies to explore and validate the therapeutic benefits of service dogs.
  4. Public Awareness: Greater awareness and acceptance of the role of service dogs in mental health care.

What to Follow

  • Program Developments: Initiatives to provide more service dogs to veterans.
  • Policy Changes: Legislative support for service dog programs.
  • Research Studies: Ongoing research into the benefits of service dogs for PTSD.
  • Veteran Feedback: Reports from veterans on their experiences with service dogs.

Conclusion

Service dogs offer significant therapeutic benefits for veterans with PTSD, enhancing their mental health and quality of life. Continued support and research are essential to maximize these benefits and improve veterans’ access to service dogs.

Source: JAMA Network Open



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Anxiety Diagnosis Linked to Increased Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

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A recent study suggests that individuals diagnosed with anxiety may have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. The findings highlight the importance of monitoring anxiety symptoms and exploring their potential link to neurological conditions. This research could lead to improved early detection and preventive strategies for Parkinson’s disease.

Study Links Anxiety Diagnosis to Parkinson’s Disease Risk

Introduction to the Study

A study has revealed a potential link between anxiety diagnoses and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This discovery emphasizes the need for heightened awareness and monitoring of anxiety symptoms as potential early indicators of neurological conditions.

Key Findings

Researchers found that individuals diagnosed with anxiety are at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The study suggests that anxiety could be an early symptom or a contributing factor to the onset of Parkinson’s.

Implications for Early Detection

Understanding the connection between anxiety and Parkinson’s could lead to earlier detection and intervention. Healthcare providers might start screening for Parkinson’s in patients with chronic anxiety to identify those at risk sooner.

Importance of the Findings

These findings underscore the importance of considering mental health conditions like anxiety in the broader context of neurological health. Addressing anxiety may not only improve mental well-being but also potentially delay or prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

Why This Is Important

Early detection of Parkinson’s disease is crucial for managing symptoms and improving patient outcomes. Recognizing anxiety as a risk factor can lead to more proactive and preventive healthcare strategies.

Possible Implications

  1. Early Screening: Implementing routine screening for Parkinson’s in patients with anxiety.
  2. Preventive Care: Developing strategies to manage anxiety and potentially reduce the risk of Parkinson’s.
  3. Research Expansion: Encouraging further studies to explore the link between anxiety and neurological conditions.
  4. Integrated Healthcare: Promoting a holistic approach to treating mental and neurological health.

What to Follow

  • Future Studies: Ongoing research into the relationship between anxiety and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Clinical Guidelines: Updates in clinical practices for screening and managing at-risk patients.
  • Patient Outcomes: Monitoring the impact of early detection and intervention strategies on patient health.

Conclusion

The study linking anxiety to an increased risk of Parkinson’s highlights the need for integrated healthcare approaches. By addressing anxiety early, healthcare providers may improve both mental and neurological health outcomes.

Source: Washington Post, The study



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