In October 2017, the Independent published an article titled “Eating magic mushrooms can treat depression, study finds.” According to the article, “[t]he drug ‘resets’ the brain circuits to immediately improve moods.”
According to Andrew Griffin at the Independent, “[s]cientists got special permission to give the mushrooms to 19 people.” This statement is not accurate. The original study in the journal Scientific Reports states patients with treatment-resistant depression were given a 10mg and 25mg doses of psilocybin seven days apart. The author of the article in the Independent assumes psilocybin was given to the patients by way of feeding them “magic mushrooms.” However, the study clearly states the patients were given “oral psilocybin.” This is a good lesson about not believing everything you read and always going back to the original research to learn the facts.
This information about dosing raises another important point. Psilocybin mushrooms vary greatly in terms of the composition and concentration of active ingredients. Here, the study dosed participants with 100% psilocybin — NOT mushrooms. Mushrooms contain a variety of different psychoactive molecules including several psilocybin derivatives (like psilocin) and also phenylethylamines and other molecules.
Progress in the psilocybin space will require distinguishing “the mushrooms” from each of the active ingredients found in them. First, those active ingredients probably interact with each other, providing effects different from administering them individually in their isolated and purified form. Second, the concentration of active ingredients (e.g. psilocybin and/or psilocin) varies from mushroom to mushroom, whereas the study involves dosing people with precise quantities of one compound.