- Dr. Deepak Chopra shares how psilocybin (magic mushrooms) can help with treatment of depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions.
- The Chopra Foundation recently partnered with a biopharmaceutical company to support research on psychedelic treatment.
- The company completed a phase 2 study of using psilocybin to help treat depression which found that six weeks after having two doses of psilocybin, 8 out of 10 patients were in remission from their depression.
For decades, iconic New Age thought leader and author Dr. Deepak Chopra, has been sharing his insights and wisdom on alternative medicine.
He is currently spreading the word about the effectiveness of psychedelic therapeutics like psilocybin (also known as “magic mushrooms”) to help treat mental health conditions.
“Psilocybin has been used for thousands of years in cultures across the world for depression, but also for the expansion of consciousness,” Chopra told Healthline. “We now know that psilocybin works as a serotonin agonist, which means it enhances the activity of the receptor to serotonin in the brain…and serotonin in the neuropeptide is associated with feeling pleasure or also joy or happiness, so it is very effective.”
Chopra believes psilocybin has potential to help treat depression, end-of-life care, terminal lucidity, PTSD, suicidal ideation, and more.
Through his Chopra Foundation, he partnered with the biopharmaceutical company Cybin to support research on psilocybin for people with moderate to severe depression.
The company completed a phase 2 study of psilocybin that is administered as a synthesized compound taken in capsule form.
“One of the challenges with natural psilocybin in various species of mushrooms is that within each mushroom and from species to species, there’s a lot of variability in concentration…so having a pure form removes that,” Doug Drysdale, CEO of Cybin, told Healthline.
He added that many people who would not take mushrooms might take a prescription that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and covered by their insurance.
“So we think that’s the greatest path to take,” said Drysdale.
All study participants continued to take SSRI or SNRI medications prescribed for depression while they took psilocybin. However, they did not receive psychotherapy.
“It’s important for us to show the separation and just the drug effect, not the effect of psychotherapy,” said Drysdale.
Psilocybin was given under supervision in a clinical setting, where participants spent four to five hours.
“Typically, they wear an eye mask and listen to music, shut out all external distractions and do the work internally. It’s quite a non-clinical event in a way,” said Drysdale.
Six weeks after having two doses of psilocybin, he said 8 out of 10 patients were in remission from their depression.
Drysdale meets with the FDA in early 2024 and hopes to get approved for a phase 3 study. His company is also working on a phase 2 study for the use of N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) molecules to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
While psilocybin is promising for depression, Chopra said it’s not a recreational drug, and not a panacea for every condition.
“It has to be used selectively by people who know how to, who are qualified in treating people with depression with some understanding of neuropsychiatry and how the brain works, and of course, there are shamanic traditions where psilocybin has been used for thousands of years, as well, so we can trust those as long as they’re authentic,” he said.
Skepticism and fear around psychedelic treatments goes back to the 1970s and the war on drugs during the Nixon Administration, he noted.
“[People] did not know the difference between addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine and opioids that are devastating and destroy life [and] psychedelics, which actually help with addiction…they’re a different bread of medicine altogether,” said Chopra.
While fear of the drug culture still lingers today, Chopra said as more and more research on psychedelics is performed at prestigious institutions, misinformation will be clarified.
A greater understanding of the mind/body connection will also help, he said.
“Without the mind/body connection, you can’t wiggle your toes, you can’t speak. You know everything we do starts in the mind and then your bodily experience,” said Chopra. “The science is catching up and so are people, but we have a long way to go because people still can’t tell me what the mind is or where it is. They talk about mind, body, spirit, but they can’t define what it is.”
In his latest book, “Quantum Body,” he delves deeper into the mind/body connection by discussing how people can improve their physical and mental well-being by embracing their “quantum body,” an infinite, invisible source of everyday reality that affects thoughts, feelings, sensations, and biological responses.
“So my book takes the quantum metaphor as it is understood today as the source field of existence, which is awareness, and shows you how getting in touch with this primordial source of all existence (which in spiritual traditions is called the soul or spirit), can [help you] learn to self-regulate your body, and also your mind, and also your emotions, and also your experience of the world,” said Chopra.
During his clinical trial, Drysdale said participants reported a few cases of nausea, headache, and elevated blood pressure that occurred during the dosing session but self-resolved on their own. However, he said processing memories and past events that are recalled during the sessions can be difficult for some people.
“Some of the sessions are quite traumatic and can be powerful because some patients are reliving past negative experiences, which is why we’re dosing them with supervision,” he added.
Because putting any substance in your body carries a risk, it’s crucial to take psilocybin in the presence of a knowledgeable clinician, Chopra said.
“Having said that, it’s very occasional somebody will have an experience they might consider scary,” he said. “All of that can be easily monitored by starting with micro-dosing and building up to the ideal response. So once again, there’s nothing that doesn’t have a risk, but the benefits outweigh the risks in this case.”
Concerns regarding misuse or abuse, drug interactions, long-term safety issues, accidents during the procedure, and more are valid, said Dr. Todd Gould, MD, professor of psychiatry, pharmacology, and neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“These are the early days. The total number of patients treated is still modest, and there remain a number of practical considerations,” Gould told Healthline.
Available study results seem too good to be true, he added.
“Much of the work is supported by venture capital, without experience or rigorous study design standards and impartiality in study design or interpretation. These issues of rigor are especially important considering the impossibility of blinding treatments,” said Gould.
More research is needed to determine if psychedelics like psilocybin will become mainstream soon.
“It is too early to know, both in terms of efficacy, as well as safety, to be able to make such a prediction,” said Gould. “There is a long way to go.”