The Talk Behind Magic Mushrooms & Schizophrenia (Race Towards a Cure)
The field of medicine is constantly evolving, with studies and research helping innovate the way patients are treated. Psychology, for example, is constantly finding new ways to understand better mental illnesses and how to treat them. They’re even discovering new treatment plans on hallucinogenic mushrooms and schizophrenia from lots of studies popping up.
A perfect example of this would be how psychologists and academics are trying to understand the mental disorder of schizophrenia better.
Over the past few years, research has found a connection between schizophrenia and psychedelics. It is through this connection that science may achieve a better understanding of schizophrenia.
When you hear the word “schizophrenia”, you might think this pertains to a mental illness where the person afflicted is crazy or insane. But, unfortunately, this is the least accurate way to define this mental illness.
While this is indeed a mental illness, there’s more to it than just being perceived as crazy or what people stereotypically think is insane.
Disturbances in several aspects characterize schizophrenia. Usually, these can manifest in thought, emotion, and behavior. Disordered thinking, faulty perception and attention, inappropriate expression, and a lack of emotional responsiveness are also observable in this mental illness.
Clinically, this illness has four main characteristic features or symptoms. These are positive symptoms, negative symptoms, disorganized symptoms, and catatonia.
Positive symptoms are the symptoms that people typically think about when they hear schizophrenia. These include the presence of abnormal behavior, such as delusions and hallucinations.
Negative symptoms are more of behavior deficits, where there is a lack of normal behavior. These would usually manifest as having a general lack of motivation, an inability to feel pleasure, a noticeable decrease in speech, and having a flat affect.
Disorganized symptoms would manifest in speech and behavior. Disorganized speech is usually observed when the person has trouble communicating or articulating themselves.
Disorganized behavior can take several forms, such as irritability or even unusual behaviors for the affected person. Catatonia is usually manifested in the person’s ability to sustain unusual and even uncomfortable body positions for prolonged periods.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5, the American Psychiatric Association’s guide for diagnosing mental disorders, requires some conditions to be met for one to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
For a diagnosis to be considered, at least two of the following should be present in the patient for at least one month: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms. Aside from this, one of the symptoms present needs to be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech.
Psychedelics and Schizophrenia
Now that we have a relatively basic understanding of schizophrenia, where do psychedelics fit in all of this?
Well, psychedelics are known to take people on a trip when consumed. But, psychedelics are now more than just a recreational drug. These drugs are also what are called psychotomimetics, which are drugs that mimic the symptoms of psychosis.
Since these drugs induce a temporary bout of psychosis when consumed, scientists thought that this could be a way to understand psychosis better. With the help of psychedelics, scientists could see what part of the brain these substances act on and affect.
They could then point out the similarities that certain substances have to a mental illness with a similar presentation to psychedelic-induced psychosis. This could help bring about a better understanding of these illnesses and help treat them more effectively.
Magic Mushrooms and Schizophrenia
One psychedelic, the magic mushroom, has become closely associated with schizophrenia. This is because psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in magic mushrooms, causes people to have symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Specifically, one of the symptoms noted in those who took psilocybin were hallucinations.
As hallucinations were common in both, scientists surmised that psilocybin affected the same area of the brain as in people with schizophrenia. Thus, by studying the part of the brain that was affected and caused hallucinations, they would be one step closer to understanding how to mitigate these hallucinations.
So far, the research on mushrooms and schizophrenia led to the discovery that both involve the same neuroreceptor, the 5-HT receptor. While there are several kinds of 5-HT receptors in the brain, these are all serotonin receptors.
Therefore, when a person consumes psilocybin, it stimulates or causes hyperactivity of these receptors. This is a similar finding in schizophrenic patients, wherein their serotonin receptors are also found to be hyperactive.
There have been studies where medication for the positive symptoms of schizophrenia was given to people before their intake of psilocybin to test if the finding was true.
These studies showed that these people could not experience hallucinations as they would in a regular setting. These findings only proved that there is indeed a serotonin-related dysfunction in schizophrenia.
Can mushrooms cause schizophrenia?
While the intake of mushrooms and schizophrenia share some similar manifestations, there is still much research to see if they can cause schizophrenia. Hallucinations are perceptual experiences that take place in the absence of an outside stimulus.
This is indeed the case in schizophrenic patients, but this may not necessarily be what occurs when it comes to mushrooms. Mushrooms are hallucinogens, which do induce hallucinations, but the intake of the mushroom still causes these. So, there is still technically an outside stimulus.
There is still much that needs to be understood about both mushrooms and schizophrenia, so to say the former causes the latter still cannot be concluded.
The Search for the Cure Continues
Mushrooms and schizophrenia are definitely exciting research topics, mainly because mushrooms can help us understand this mental illness. The potential of finding a cure is indeed high with the help of mushrooms. If not a cure, then at least a better treatment could be found.
As schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that can drastically affect the lives of the afflicted and those around them, finding a better and effective treatment will definitely go a long way.
Until then, we have much to learn about this illness, and mushrooms are one incredible way to help keep the research going. To know that mushrooms and mental health can go hand in hand can only mean good things for psychedelics and their place in medicine.