Can magic mushrooms — a drug people often use to take a trip recreationally — be used as a therapy tool? As it turns out, the hallucinogenic substance psilocybin that comes from magic mushrooms can help treat a number of mental health concerns.

Though it is not legal, research on the realm of psychedelic and psilocybin therapy have intensified and through this, research has found that it can help treat the most difficult-to-treat mental health conditions. Read on to learn more about what exactly psilocybin therapy is, potential benefits, risks and more.

What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin, more commonly known as “shrooms,” is a hallucinogenic substance that comes from a species of mushrooms called psilocybe. The usual dosage that people take in order to take trips induces hallucinations, allowing one to smell, hear, feel or see something that isn’t actually real. Some people even experience “mystical experiences,” which lead to increased insightfulness about their lives and what it means to them. With the right dosage, mushrooms can be paired with psychological support to treat major depression, alcohol use disorder, smoking cessation, treatment of anorexia and much more.

How Does it Work?

There are essentially two different approaches to psilocybin therapy, one being that psilocybin facilitates psychotherapy and improves the patient’s willingness to do work to better themselves. It helps the patient and therapist to talk better and have self-realizations through the drug. The other approach and belief is that the psilocybin is doing most of the work. In this version, the therapists are in the room with you but there is essentially no talking done. It is an inward, self-healing process, where the drug is doing the work with the therapists just guiding you along in the experience.

The way psilocybin works in the brain differs from other medical drugs. With conventional medications for mental health, one has to continuously take the drug daily, in hopes for a positive outcome. Once you find the right medication and dosage, the drug is taken as a new normal. Psilocybin, however, works in the fact that you take it for a short amount of time with long-lasting effects. This is because the drug changes the way the brain processes information. During the emotional and spiritual experience there are new brain connections formed, with old patterns of thinking being broken or rewired.

Benefits and Risks

While this form of therapy is still pretty new, there are already some existing benefits with using the drug. The drug is found to reduce severe depression and even pull people out of depression episodes by breaking through cognitive rigidity, which is the self-defeating thoughts and patterns that affect the way people see things and think. It is also proven to help those with smoking and drinking problems by reshaping the patients perception of themselves. Another difficult disorder it treats is anorexia, by regulating the person’s thoughts of food intake.

There are also risks to this kind of therapy that should be brought up to a clinic that provides psilocybin therapy. The risks and side effects include dizziness, nausea, headache and fatigue. In some patients, it is even found to increase anxiety and confusion. Yet, many of these side effects are short-term and are often related to the therapeutic and emotional process that is happening during the session.

Tips for Potentially Doing Psilocybin Therapy

To ensure safe usage, make sure to do this therapy with a clinic that provides it so you have someone to help monitor and help you through the experience. While currently it is hard to find this type of therapy, you can look at clinical trials, or clinics within Oregon or Colorado — the two states where it has been decriminalized. What is critical is to make sure that there is a professional counselor. While it can be safe to do psilocybin in a social setting, with a professional it is far more safe and will also incorporate the therapy aspect of the experience.