Magic Mushrooms Activate New Neural Pathways
Tripping on magic mushrooms has a long history and reputation for wild, mind-altering effects that are similar to dreams. The seemingly uncontrolled, chaotic experience has frightened the Western world since the erratic upheavals of the 1960s. However, Psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in these shrooms, has been shown in clinical tests to produce a number of interesting and medically beneficial effects.
Researchers have recently begun to examine the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on the brain in patients from a number of different areas; addicts, cancer patients, military combatants with PTSD, and control groups of normal, healthy citizens. What they are finding is that while at first the neural activity in the brain appears to be random and chaotic—accounting no doubt for the colorful visions of elves and flying spaceships—but upon closer inspect, the chemical is actually forming new neural pathways that weren’t there before. It literally “expands your mind” by allowing increased organization of cross-brain activity and stimulating new patterns of connected thought. This accounts for the reports of synesthesia, or the blending of sensory input, as well as higher revelatory insights often brought back from psychedelic experiences.
There have been successful treatments of opioid and methamphetamine addictions by administering small doses of psilocybin mushrooms in a safe, controlled environment where the patient can use this new brain activity to process his/her addiction and review life choices. Clinical psychiatrists hope to develop treatment programs that utilize cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with this more elastic brain state to produce more effective addiction recovery and PTSD treatment programs. It’s already shown massive gains in treating depression in Europe.
While the research is just now getting underway after a thirty year ban on the substance, the results are already fascinating. While psilocybin mushrooms are still a Schedule 1 federally illegal substance in the US, deemed to have “no medical value,” we may be seeing a larger paradigm shift as more states legalize cannabis and open up doors to psychoactive drug research.