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Magic Mushrooms May Magically Cure Depression

Many healthcare communities are hopeful that the FDA will approve both MDMA and psilocybin (the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms) for the treatment depression and PTSD one day soon.

Both “party” drugs were the subject of ire and scrutiny for decades as the world slowly came to terms with their potential benefits. As recently as 2002, then Senator Joe Biden lead and passed the RAVE act, which stood for Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy. The goal was to stop drug overdose deaths related to the use of MDMA.

A mere 20 years later, the attitude has changed, likely thanks to the slow legalization of marijuana as a litmus test in the market.

Does this mean both magic mushrooms and drugs such as ecstasy will be available for recreational use? Unlikely; as of now, both MDMA and psilocybin are listed as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA. A few U.S. cities, though, have decriminalized the use of mushrooms locally. Oregon has also decriminalized mushrooms statewide. 

Recreational usage of psychedelics may never materialize, but there is certainly a growing interest in them both socially and in the scientific world for the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, PTSD, and addiction. Currently tens of millions of Americans suffer from these mental diseases; but would the pharmaceutical industry ever allow it?

Mushrooms and MDMA gain support as possible “breakthrough” medications

A study from Johns Hopkins University in late 2020 showed psilocybin could be as much as four times as effective as traditional medications targeting depression. The study’s results showed “rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms.” Most study participants also stayed in remission from depression weeks later when they checked in with the university.

Still, the DEA lists mushrooms as a substance with a high potential for abuse alongside drugs such as heroin and LSD. The Schedule 1 classification means the agency believes both MDMA and psilcybin have no legitimate medical purpose in the United States. A DEA fact sheet shows “panic reactions and a psychotic-like episode also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a high dose” of psilocybin.

MDMA may be further along in the process of approval for medical use, according to a 2021 article from The Guardian. The drug has especially shown promise in therapies directed at people suffering from PTSD because of its effects on brain serotonin. Some research reports that, in conjunction with therapy, the treatment resulted in two out of three participants no longer experiencing PTSD symptoms.

While it’s not fully approved by the FDA, MDMA has a Breakthrough Therapy designation by the administration. 

There’s no guarantee either drug will be approved for medical use by the FDA, but the federal interest is promising for further research and development of new mental health treatments.

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