Psilocybin: Is This The Next Big Addiction Treatment Approach?


Psilocybin, the world’s latest discovery in substance rehabilitation, is a hallucinogenic chemical that has been proven to help some individuals manage depressive states. It is naturally occurring in certain mushrooms that grow in Europe, South America, Mexico, and the United States.

This article has been created with the help of rehabilitation experts from Substance Rehabilitation UK.

What Is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a psychoactive chemical found in certain types of mushrooms. It is an alkaloid that is chemically related to serotonin and affects similar brain functions as serotonin-related medications.

Now, whenever someone hears of ‘magic mushrooms’, they think of hallucinogens. Magic mushrooms are in fact hallucinogens. They act on the behaviour and overall attitude.

Some symptoms of consuming these naturally growing plants are:

– Feeling giggly, excited, confused and/or paranoid, anxious, overwhelmed.

– Physical effects such as nausea

– Distortion of perception such as sound and vision

– Hallucinations and ‘tripping’

If you are experiencing any unexpected symptoms, such as dehydration, blurring of the vision, lack of feeling in the extremities, sweating, severe headaches or seizures, then you may have ingested a poisonous or toxic mushroom by mistake. If you, or someone you observe, have ingested a poisonous mushroom, you must contact emergency services right away. If possible, save a piece of the ingested substance in a zipper bag or a well-insulated box to show to the EMS or doctors, as that will make it easier for them to help.

These effects and symptoms for which ”shrooms’ are mostly used, come from the chemical psilocybin.

When researching psilocybin, you may hear the term ‘prodrug’. Prodrugs are sometimes substances that scientists have modified to make them more easy to absorb. They can also be naturally easier to metabolise. They are usually made up of two parts: one part that will dissolve in your tract and another part that dissolves inside the stomach afterwards. Once the original chemical is metabolised, it may change into a different one and then travel to your brain, where it causes hallucinations or other desired effects.

When it comes to psilocybin, it is metabolised into psilocin within the body. Once it becomes this substituted tryptamine alkaloid, it releases specific effects, including happiness-enforcing stimulations for the serotonin receptors in the brain.

How Does Psilocybin Work?

When ingested, psilocybin is quickly metabolised to psilocin. It then acts on serotonin receptors in the brain related to feelings of positivity, excitement, and happiness. Basically, what this chemical does to the brain is force it to feel good by stimulating symptoms of joy.

Psilocybin is considered a treatment approach because it can be used to treat depression. This is because when people take psilocybin, they tend to have more positive thoughts about themselves and their lives. They also experience less anxiety and negative thinking patterns.

The effects of psilocybin last for up to six hours after consumption. However, if you do not consume enough psilocybin or use it too frequently, its effects will wear off sooner. This is based on tolerance – a term often used in dependence treatment. If you use a medication for too long, your body becomes too used to it, and your tolerance grows. Thus, you may start abusing – higher doses or more frequent than necessary.

What Does the Data Currently Show?

When it comes to efficacy, Psilocybin use in youths was researched. The 2000-2002 study revealed that none of the tested youths presented heightened adult dependence habits. Thus, this chemical is not a ‘gateway’ substance.

According to chemical tests on the human body, the chemical does not lead to dependence. Any dependencies dissipate within minutes of last dosage and there are no noticeable withdrawal effects. Thus, this hallucinogenic chemical is considered safe to use as part of mental health treatment, but only under strict supervision. Any allergic reactions or intolerance present, use should be stopped and a doctors’ appointment set to study the issue. At this moment, no allergic reactions have been reported.

The Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances is a registry of chemicals and toxic components which is maintained by BOVIA. Previously, it was a  US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) publication. This registry assigns psilocybin a high therapeutic index of 641. Compared to aspirin and nicotine (199 and 21, respectively), it has a much higher safety profile.

The use of Psilocybin for anxiety disorders, major depression, and various addictions is still being researched. In the last two decades, various US, UK and European medical institutions and universities are performing multiple tests and studies of the effects of this chemical on the human body and brain. Once the data is clear, analysed and peer-reviewd, more will be known with certainty.

Psilocybin versus Traditional Modes of Treatment

While traditional ways of treating depression involve using prescription medications which often have an addictive potential, psilocybin extracted from mushroom plants presents a lower addictive potential.

Being a naturally occurring chemical, this substance can be extracted and cleansed before being prescribed. In addiction, it can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and brain reactions to abstinence, as well as in dual diagnosis treatment for people who suffer from anxiety and depression alongside a substance addiction.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland tested this substance in treating smoking addiction. According to the trial data, out of the 15 enrolled subjects, At six months follow up, 80% of patients were not smoking.

Unfortunately, the chemical is still being researched on a wider scale, making it a modern and innovative treatment option, but it has not been observed in patients with more than twenty years of exposure or similar.

Which Substances Does It Show Promise With?

In addiction treatment, some substances produce unwanted side effects when used and also during withdrawal.

Cravings are some of the key side effects of withdrawing from chemical dependencies. Using this psychedelic element may ease the cravings and allow people doing through detoxification to concentrate on therapies.

With treating benzodiazepine addiction, opiate addiction and addiction to most illegal substances, psilocybin can help manage anxiety and depressive fits, which often occur during the detxo phase, but are also sometimes observed during the rehab phase of treatment.

While still not entirely researched and tested, the initial results of using psilocybin, a hallucinogenic chemical naturally occurring in some mushrooms, show that it can be the next wonder drug for fighting mental health conditions and some addictions.