Mystery of magic mushrooms: hallucinogenic drugs may fight melancholy

Psilocybin has been used for centuries in religious practices, and its ability to produce a mystical experience is no surprise. But the new work demonstrates it more clearly than previously.

Interest in the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs is growing around the world. In the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists debated their use at a conference in March for the first time in 30 years. A conference held in Basel, Switzerland, last January reviewed the growing psychedelic psychiatry movement, Independent reports.

The drug psilocybin is the active ingredient of magic mushrooms which grow wild in Wales and were openly sold in London markets until a change in the law last year.

Many of the 36 volunteers, who took part in research, rated their reaction to a single dose of the drug, called psilocybin, as one of the most meaningful or spiritually significant experiences of their lives. Some compared it to the birth of a child or the death of a parent.

Viewed by some as a landmark, the study is one of the few rigorous looks in the past 40 years at a hallucinogen's effects. The researchers suggest that the drug someday may help drug addicts stop their habit or aid terminally ill patients struggling with anxiety, according to the AP.

Even two months after taking the drug, most of the volunteers said the experience had changed them in beneficial ways, such as making them more compassionate, loving, optimistic and patient. Family members and friends said they noticed a difference, too.

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