Psilocybin: The Potential Health Benefits


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There were > 1000 clinical papers published on classic psychedelics, collectively involving approximately 40,000 patients between 1950 and the mid-1960s.

Psilocybin: The Potential Health Benefits

Over 100 species of mushrooms have been found to contain psilocybin, many falling within the genus Psilocybe. Psilocybin is a relatively small compound based on the structure of tryptamine. Psilocybin is a prodrug metabolised through in vivo dephosphorylation to psilocin, which is presumed to be the active agent in the central nervous system (1).

Psilocybin is characterised by low physiological toxicity and low abuse liability. (1).

Psilocybin And Anxitey

A recent study examined a large dose of psilocybin in the treatment of depression and anxiety in patients with cancer. Patients were 51 individuals diagnosed with one of multiple “mood- or anxiety-related disorders” in relation to a life-threatening cancer diagnosis (1).

The study showed the high psilocybin dose to result in numerous improved clinical outcomes.

Moreover, the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, the STAI, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and the BDI all showed large and persisting reductions at a 6-month follow-up.

These results are remarkable not only because they show persistent benefits for many months after a single medication administration, but also because of the large magnitude of clinical effects. Approximately 80% of participants at the 6-month follow-up continued to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety, and approximately 60% showed remission: in other words, symptom levels in the normal range (1).

Psilocybin And Treatment Resistant Depression

A recent small, open-label, pilot study tested the effect of psilocybin in treatment-resistant major depression. Patients received 10 mg oral psilocybin on the first session, and 25 mg in a second session 1 week later. Depressive symptoms, as measured by the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the BDI, and other measures, were significantly decreased at 1 week and 3 months post-treatment, when compared with baseline scores (1).

According to standard criteria for determining remission with the BDI, 8 of 12 met threshold for complete remission, and 5 of 12 were in remission at the final 3- month follow-up.

Psilocybin And Addiction

An open-label pilot study that administered psilocybin to 15 treatment-resistant tobacco/nicotine-dependent smokers, in the context of cognitive behavioral therapy for smoking cessation.

At the 6-month follow up, 12 of 15 partici- pants (80%) were abstinent from smoking based on biological verification with breath carbon monoxide and urine cotinine results. At a 12-month follow-up, 10 of 15 participants (67%) were biologically verified as abstinent. At a long-term term follow that averaged 2.5 years after the target quit date, 9 of the 12 participants (75%) were biologically verified as abstinent.

The results of this open-label pilot study cannot be taken as solid evidence for the efficacy of psilocybin for smoking cessation.

Psilocybin And Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

One pilot study in 9 participants examined the effect of oral psilocybin in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

All participants showed substantial symptom reduction during at least one session as assessed by the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. At a 6-month follow up, 1 participant showed long-term improvements. Although these results might suggest psilocybin efficacy, it should be noted that a similar magnitude of symptom reduction was observed at all dose conditions, including the extremely small dose intended to have little or no effect (1).

Psilocybin And Cluster Headaches

One published case series of 53 self-medicating patients suggested that psilocybin-containing mushrooms, in addition to LSD, may be effective in terminating cluster headaches or preventing the regular occurrence of cluster headaches. This is exciting because approved therapies show limited efficacy in treating this disorder, and the pain resulting from the disorder is often severe and debilitating (1).

Interestingly, case reports suggest efficacy with doses that do not result in noticeable psychoactive effects.

Psilocybin And Creativity

Consistent with the description of psychedelics as enabling new insights, it has also been suggested that their use may facilitate creative pursuits. Both artists and scientists have reported inspiration or insights as a result of psychedelic experiences (1).

Psilocybin and Well-Being

Griffiths et al.  gave healthy volunteers a dose of psilocybin and supervised them during an 8-hour period in a comfortable environment. The majority of participants were found to have a ‘‘complete mystical experience’’, including a sense of unity, transcendence of time and space, and positive mood. Strikingly, even at a 14-month follow- up, 58% of participants said the experience was among the five most personally significant in their lives, 67% said that it was one of the most spiritually meaningful in their lives, and 64% noted an increased sense of wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Similarly, MacLean et al. (2011) determined a likely effective dose of psilocybin for reliably producing a mystical experience in an independent sample of healthy participants. These participants likewise reported increases in wellbeing and satisfaction, as well as moderate positive changes regarding behaviors in relationships and caring for themselves (2).


  1. Psychedelic drug use in healthy individuals: A review of benefits, costs, and implications for drug policy: click here.
  2. Potential Therapeutic Effects of Psilocybin: click here.
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