Psilocybin’s Potential as a Treatment for Mental Health Conditions

Psilocybin’s potential as a treatment for mental health conditions

Mental health diseases, including depressed moods, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol, and tobacco consumption have been treated by hallucinogens such as psilocybin. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring hallucinogen that is naturally produced by 100+ mushrooms worldwide [1].

It was first extracted by Albert Hofmann in 1957, and the first medical product was created a year later. The potency of naturally occurring psilocybin has been strengthened up to 10 multiples from their wild parents. It has similar properties to LSD, with effects starting within the first 20-40 minutes of ingestion and disappearing after 3-6 hours [1].

Impact of Psilocybin

Like all drugs, there is a threshold for intoxication. For psilocybin, it is approximately 40 mcg/kg of body weight. Recreational use through dried mushrooms stands at 1-2 grams. Since it alters sensory perception and impacts the serotonergic activity of the brain, it can be used to treat mental health conditions that are related to sensory perception and substance use disorders.

The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970 resulted in the cessation of research in America. Clinical trials resumed in 1992 to reevaluate the medicinal value of psychedelic agents. The impact of psilocybin in human trials has been at the forefront of research. It has been used to replace ketamine and other Schedule I substances, such as marijuana and LSD [2].

Suicidal Tendencies and Depressive Moods

The examination of lifetime psilocybin use and psychological distress, especially with respect to suicidal thinking, suicidal planning, and suicide attempts, has been observed. In a four-year study of 191,831 individuals, four groups associated with psilocybin use were made [3].
These groups were categorized into; a) psilocybin use only (n = 7550), b) psilocybin and other psychedelics (n = 12 724), c) other non-psilocybin psychedelics only (n = 6963), d) or no psychedelic use in their lifetime (n = 164 595).

It was revealed that suicidal thinking was lower in the only psilocybin group than the psilocybin and other psychedelics group. Moreover, individuals who used only psilocybin had lower psychological distress as compared to other groups. Psilocybin and psychedelic groups performed much better concerning patients who had never been exposed to psychedelics.

In healthy volunteers, when psilocybin was introduced, they showed improved ratings in attitudes, mood, social effects, and behavior after two and fourteen-month intervals. A large percentage of trialists claimed their psilocybin exposure as one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives [4].

Anxiety Disorders

Psilocybin has been studied to treat anxiety in patients with cancer. Research subjects had acute stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorder due to cancer. It was observed that patients had reduced anxiety levels after 1 and 3 months of treatment, with mood-improving after two weeks of ingestion [5]. However, increased heart rate and blood pressure after two hours of ingestion were also observed. Nevertheless, it supports the idea of further research in using psilocybin to manage anxiety disorders [6].

No negative impact on mental health issues

In 8 different studies where 110 human trials were conducted with 227 administrations. The Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale was used for effective visual self-rating. The adverse reactions from psilocybin were few in number and were resolved quickly. None of the trialists showed any negative impacts in the 8-16 month period post-administration. Moreover, Johansen and Krebs population study of 135 095 random adults of the United States had 19 299 psychedelic users. No correlation between the use of psychedelics and mental health issues was found [7].


The studies discussed show that psilocybin can prove to be effective in managing mental health conditions. However, more research is required, as the studies conducted were limited in size and scope. Moreover, psilocybin was administered in a low dosage, and its overuse has yet to be determined under clinical conditions. Nevertheless, it does show that psilocybin can treat symptoms of suicidal tendencies, anxiety disorders, and OCD with marked improvement in target symptoms.


Daniel J, Haberman M. Clinical potential of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health conditions. Ment Health Clin [Internet]. 2017;7(1):24-8. DOI: 10.9740/mhc.2017.01.024

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