Psilocybin–the active ingredient in magic mushrooms–is becoming increasingly recognized for its capacity to aid emotional healing and well-being.
In the video above, watch Third Wave CEO, Paul F. Austin, describes how to optimize healing with mushrooms to help combat various mental health issues, including anxiety, severe depression, and PTSD. Read on to explore the science and research behind psilocybin and mental health and how to use psilocybin mushrooms for your own healing journey.
Psychedelics and Mental Health
Since the 1950s, scientists have recognized the healing potential of psychedelic medicines. Yet, with a decades-long stigma since President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” it’s only in recent years they have become more generally acknowledged for medical use and as therapeutic tools.
The word psychedelic means “mind-manifesting,” which describes how hallucinogenic substances can help reveal parts of our subconscious. This property makes psychedelics valuable tools in psychotherapy and mental health, as it allows repressed memories and difficult emotions to be brought to the surface. When combined with talk therapy and integration, this effect can help us better understand why we think and behave the way we do.
Paul F. Austin shares how psychedelic mushrooms, for example, “ …open up the aperture of existence which allows the issues that need to be resolved to come to the surface. When these challenges arise, the patterns of why we do what we do become much clearer.”
As well as giving insight into the subconscious, psychedelic therapy benefits mental health by helping us gain new perspectives and change unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.
In a recent Third Wave podcast episode, integrative psychotherapist Keith Kurlander explained:
“So, we’re perceiving things in a repeated pattern for either weeks, months, or years, or your whole life…. And generally speaking, that perception of life has a lot of falsehoods in it…. I think, generally speaking, psychedelics give you a moment where, now, you have to look at [life] completely differently.”
When looking at the neuroscience of classical psychedelics (psilocybin, DMT, and LSD), psychopharmacology research explains that increased flexibility in the brain may explain people’s profound ability to change.
Research has demonstrated that psychedelic medicines interact with a protein called the 5-HT2A receptor, which usually responds to the chemical messenger serotonin. In turn, 5-HT2A activates a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which increases the capacity for nerve cells to grow and form novel connections, which translates into new patterns of behavior and thinking.
This mechanism is crucial when considering psychedelics and mental health since many mental health disorders are characterized by patterns “stuck” in the brain, manifesting as rigid and unhealthy habits. Psychedelics can offer a window to help overcome these rigid tendencies.