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Psilocybin Could Ease The Pain Of Social Rejection

By McCarton Ackerman 04/20/16

Existing research has shown psilocybin to be effective in treating end-of-life anxiety and even alcoholism.

Psilocybin Could Ease The Pain Of Social Rejection

Past research of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, has found that it generates new neural pathways to "expand" the mind. And as a result, many valuable uses for the compound have been suggested in further studies, such as treating depression, alcoholism, and now, according to a new study, the pain of social rejection.

The findings, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that psilocybin could ease the pain of feeling left out of social situations. The small study involved 21 healthy participants who received a dose of the hallucinogen, who then played an online game in which they were made to feel socially excluded. They also played the same game after receiving a placebo.

Participants reported taking the social rejection less to heart when on psilocybin compared to the placebo. In addition, their brain scans also showed less activity in the regions of the brain linked with feelings of social pain when they were on the drug. The scientists suggest that feelings of social rejection were reduced because psilocybin boosts production of serotonin, the brain chemical associated with regulating mood.

"Social ties have repeatedly been shown to be crucial for physical and mental health," wrote the researchers. "Understanding the neural and biochemical foundations of rejection experiences is important for increasing our knowledge about social and emotional processes, and is crucial for the treatment of conditions influenced by social factors."

In a 2011 study that found psilocybin could help people overcome alcoholism, participants who took small doses of the compound reported decreased drinking as well as a boost in their psychological growth and a better understanding of previous life experiences. "This is one of the first studies to show that you actually can change adult personality," said Katherine MacLean, who contributed to the Johns Hopkins University study. "Many years later, people are saying it was one of the most profound experiences of their life. If you think about it in that context, it's not that surprising that it might be permanent."

Psilocybin's other medical benefits include relieving anxiety and depression among terminal cancer patients, according to a 2010 study. And others have suggested that the hallucinogenic compound could enhance “autobiographical recollection” and remove cluster headaches.

However, it's still far from being considered an acceptable form of treatment in today's society. Psilocybin is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s classified as having no acceptable medical benefits and a high potential for abuse.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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