"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Magic mushrooms may at some point cure anorexia, but not yet.

Anorexia nervosa is a severe mental health disorder where people fear gaining weight. People with this disorder have a distorted body image and hold strong beliefs that their bodies are too big. They often manage this by restricting food, resulting in serious medical consequences of malnutrition.

Anorexia One of the deadliest Any mental illness still exists. Not currently There are effective drug treatments and psychotherapy (talk therapy) results. Poor. So we desperately need latest and higher treatments.

Psilocybin, commonly referred to as the magic mushroom, is one such latest treatment. But while it shows early promise, you won't see it getting used in clinical practice yet – more research is required to check whether it's protected and effective.

What does treatment involve?

Treatment involves the patient taking a dose of psilocybin in a protected environment, often a specially established clinic. The patient undergoes preparation therapy before the dosing session and integration therapy afterwards.

Psilocybin, which is extracted from mushrooms, is a psychedelic, which suggests it may possibly cause altered pondering, sense of time and emotions, and may often cause hallucinations. It also has the power to shift patients out of their rigid thought patterns.

Psilocybin shouldn't be administered alone but as an alternative through co-structured psychotherapy sessions to assist the patient make sense of their experiences and changes of their pondering. This is a crucial a part of treatment.

What does the research show?

research is shown Improved effects after psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy One or two feeding sessions, aside from a number of weeks. Most research to this point has targeted depression.

Psilocybin has been found. Increased cognitive flexibility – Our ability to regulate our thought patterns to changing environments or demands. This is one in every of the ways researchers imagine psilocybin can improve symptoms of conditions like depression and alcohol use disorder, that are marked by rigid pondering patterns.

People with anorexia similarly struggle with rigid thought patterns. So researchers and clinicians have recently turned their attention to anorexia.

In 2023, A Small pilot studies Among ten women with anorexia was published within the journal Nature Medicine. It showed that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy (with 25 mg of psilocybin) was protected and acceptable. There were no significant negative effects and participants reported helpful experiences.

Although this trial was not a proper efficacy trial, 40% of patients experienced a major reduction in eating disorder behavior.

However, the trial had just one dosing session and no long-term follow-up, so more research is required.

Researchers are still working on dosage and frequency.

Fresh Animal studies Using mice, tests were conducted to see if psilocybin could improve critical pondering in mice. After psilocybin, the mice gained weight and had more flexible pondering (using a reversal learning task).

These positive changes were related to the serotonin neurotransmitter system, which controls mood, behavior and satiety (feeling full).

Brain imaging studies in humans show Disruption of serotonin in individuals with anorexia. Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is showing promise in reversing the serotonin disruption and cognitive flexibility that appears to be problematic in anorexia.

Research with animals can provide unique insights into the brain that sometimes can't be studied in living humans. But animal models can never truly mimic the complex nature of human behavior and chronic mental health conditions.

What's next for research?

Further clinical trials in humans are greatly needed – and these are ongoing from a research team on the University of Sydney and our Swinburne.

Our trial will involve an initial dose of 5mg followed by two doses of 25mg, several weeks apart. The purpose of the initial low dose is to assist participants prepare for what's more likely to be a brand new and somewhat unexpected experience.

Our trial will examine the efficacy of providing psychotherapy that directly addresses body image disturbances. We are also investigating whether including a member of the family or close friend in treatment increases support for his or her loved one.

Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock
We are investigating whether involving a member of the family or close friend in treatment will help.

Data for other mental health conditions have suggested that not everyone sees the advantages, with some people having a nasty journey and poor mental health. So this treatment won't be for everybody. It is vital to know who's most certainly to reply and under what circumstances.

New trials and people underway shall be vital in understanding whether psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is a protected and effective treatment for anorexia, and the optimal conditions for improving patient response. But we're a great distance from seeing this treatment within the clinic. A serious issue is the associated fee of this intervention and the way it's going to be financed.