Lying on a bed in London’s Hammersmith hospital ingesting capsules of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, Michael had little idea what would happen next. The 56-year-old part-time website developer from County Durham in northern England had battled depression for 30 years and had tried talking therapies and many types of antidepressants with no success. His mother’s death from cancer, followed by a friend’s suicide, had left him at one of his lowest points yet.
Listening to music and surrounded by candles and flowers in the decorated clinical room, Michael anxiously waited for the drug to kick in. After 50 minutes, he saw bright lights leading into the distance and embarked on a five-hour journey into his own mind, where he would re-live a range of childhood memories and confront his grief. For the next three months, his depressive symptoms waned. He felt upbeat and accepting, enjoying pastimes he had come to feel apathetic about, such as walking through the Yorkshire countryside and taking photographs of nature. Through mushrooms, Michael broke through his “mental shackles”.
Completed in 2016, the trial with Michael was the first modern study to target treatment-resistant depression with psilocybin. The trial happened in the UK, but similar trials could become a reality in the US, with Oakland becoming the latest US city to decriminalize mushrooms. Could magic mushrooms become a treatment for depression? Have a look at this story from The Guardian and find out.