Magic mushrooms could be key to quitting cigs and curing depression, experts say

Psychedelic magic mushrooms could be the answer to curing depression and stopping cigarette addictions, experts have claimed.

According to a group of studies made public at the 2023 Neuroscience conference this week, the psychedelic chemical inside magic mushrooms – Psilocybin – could be the key to helping with the two issues. Led by Frederick Barrett, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness, the group claims that, having tested it on mice hooked on nicotine, a reduction in withdrawal symptoms was “noticed”.

And the chemical, and another called N-dimethyltryptamine, had a positive impact on those with depression. He said: “Psilocybin completely reversed somatic signs due to nicotine withdrawal in mice. The effect of psilocybin was lost in the 5-HT2A KO [knock-out] mice, establishing this receptor as a potential mechanism of this attenuation.

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“Additionally, psilocybin decreased the expression of nicotine preference in mice in the [nicotine conditioned place preference] paradigm. Psilocybin reduced the somatic signs of nicotine withdrawal and nicotine-conditioned reward in mice by action through the 5-HT2A receptor. These initial studies suggest that classical psychedelics like psilocybin may be a potential effective treatment for smoking cessation. Further research is needed to understand any sex-dependent effects of psychedelics, as well as dose and timing of drug administration.”

No information was given on when human trials could take place, and how likely it is that magic mushrooms – or more specifically the two chemicals mentioned previously – would be available on the open market for those who need. However, the UK Government recently released a report on the debates for accessing psilocybin treatments in this country.

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In answering a question about why the UK is so reluctant to look into the drugs earlier this year, policing minister Chris Philp said: “A review of classification is not currently a priority in the context of the significant challenges of drug misuse set out in Dame Carol Black's independent review of drugs, which the government is focused on tackling through the 10-year Drug Strategy, including work to improve treatment and recovery services, tackle drugs supply and reduce the demand for drugs in society.”

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