Ketamine Therapy vs. Microdosing Mushrooms

Therapy is — irrevocably — a logistical and emotional hellscape to endure. According to Mental Health America, 21% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. Followed by the other sobering statistic that 55% of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment. Equivalent to 28 million individuals. In all, mental health is not a linear process. Improvements are sorely needed, and we must be explorative in our treatment options.

Psychedelic therapy, for example, is becoming increasingly popular alternative to the traditional therapeutic approach of antidepressants. Two of the most well-known substances used in psychedelic medicine are magic mushrooms (i.e. shrooms, mushrooms) and ketamine.

While accessibility to both these substances remains in the hands of lawmakers. A growing body of evidence points to psychedelics as a potential treatment for mental health disorders, addiction and other conditions.

Although research is still in its early stages, ketamine and magic mushrooms has shown the most promising results. And may soon lead to psychedelic-assisted therapy becoming an option for patients.

Let’s take a closer look at both.

Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic and dissociative drug, used for decades in medical settings. In a therapeutic setting, ketamine improves depression more quickly than traditional antidepressants. Typically, ketamine therapy works best for individuals who have tried all other therapies.

How It Works

Ketamine works by binding to receptors in the brain that produce a chemical called glutamate. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter, a “chemical messenger” between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain. Research suggests that glutamate plays an important role in depression. Problems in the production of glutamate has been linked to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, etc. Ketamine works to opens up these glutamate pathways, unlike antidepressants which work on serotonin & norepinephrine pathways.

Ketamine is shown to be effective for:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Alcohol dependence

Ketamine is administered by registered medical practitioners. Patients can expect their first session to be done within a safe and quiet environment, such as private room. During treatment, doctors will monitor all vitals and aid in any discomfort. Ketamine’s effects can make a patient feel happy or disconnected from reality. This sensation occurs as the medication works in the brain to alleviate depression.

  • IV Ketamine Infusion
  • Esketamine
  • Intramuscular (IM)
  • Lozenges

Classified as a controlled substance, there are strict regulations around ketamine and its use. Which can limit access to treatment. Always talk to your primary care physician before seeking treatment. Check for insurance coverage as well.

Microdosing Mushrooms

Microdosing mushrooms involves taking a low dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, on a regular basis. Psilocybin therapy is a relatively new therapeutic approach. But it is finding its foothold in the treatment of depressive disorders.

How it works

As mentioned before, psilocybin is the hallucinogenic compound found in mushrooms. In the case of microdosing however, the administration of doses are low enough to not produce a whole-body effect (i.e. “tripping”) yet high enough for a cellular response.

Microdosing aims to achieve the positive effects of the substance (better focus, elevated mood, elevated energy, and emotional balance) while avoiding all the negatives (hallucinations, sensory shifts, nausea).

Compared to ketamine, the procedure is fairly straightforward . Administered via pill, a microdose is typically 1/10 to 1/20 of a normal dose, or 10 to 20 micrograms. Microdosers follow a “one day on, two days off” procedure.

Microdosing is shown to effective for:

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders

Colorado Legalizes “Magic Mushrooms” a.k.a. Psilocybin and Psilocin

After Oregon, Colorado is the second state to legalize the medicinal use of psilocybin and psilocin – the psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Medicinal consumption of magic mushrooms is now legal in Colorado for adults aged 21 and above. Therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms will be provided in state-regulated centers under the guidance of licensed facilitators. Personal consumption of magic mushrooms is also legal under the new legislation, but it’s banned in schools, public spaces, and while driving. Retail sales are also banned as of now.

Therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms

There has been considerable research on the medicinal benefits of magic mushrooms over the past few years. Dr. Michael Bogenschutz of the NYU Langone Center carried out the largest controlled trial of magic mushroom use to reduce alcohol use disorder. The experiment revealed that the combined effect of psychotherapy and psilocybin pills helped people suffering from alcoholism reduce drinking for up to 8 months. This was the largest controlled, randomized study of its kind, and supplemented the findings of previous research.

Magic mushrooms have become more popular in recent years, for both medicinal and recreational use. While it is generally regarded as a safe psychedelic, experts still warn against the unsupervised use of psilocybin and psilocin.

A large number of voters show up to cast their opinion

More than 2.2 million people voted in the ballot measure, where 52% voted in favor of legalizing magic mushrooms. Around 93% of the total expected voters turned out to vote, and magic mushrooms won by a narrow margin.

Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, a leading supporter of magic mushroom legalization, said “I’m in awe of what we were able to accomplish”. It is indeed surprising that such a large number of voters turned out for the event, and more than 50% voted in favor of making psilocybin legal. The legislation will come into effect in 2024, and other plant-based psychedelics will be considered for legalization by 2026.

Psilocybin is still illegal in most states and at the federal level. Washington DC has decriminalized the use of magic mushrooms, and Oregon is the only other state where it’s legal. Colorado is set to be the 2nd state where psilocybin is legal and 3rd state where it’s decriminalized.

Supporters and opposers of psilocybin

Proponents of magic mushrooms argue that naturally occurring psychedelics have been used for ages with positive benefits, both from a spiritual and mental health perspective. New research shows that it also has physiological benefits. Moreover, the risks associated with magic mushrooms are negligible and very rare.

However, not everyone is happy with the new legislation. According to critics, this move shows how the United States is moving away from science towards populism even with medicinal ingredients. They also argue that this will send a wrong message to youngsters who will regard psilocybin as a completely harmless drug with no potential side effects.

As the voting figures show us, there isn’t an overwhelming consensus on the legalization of magic mushrooms. Far from it, many people are still against the legalization, and some pushback is likely over the next year before the legislation is enforced in 2024.

Protect Colorado’s Kids is the largest organization lobbying against the legislation. According to its head Luke Niforatos, this move “circumvent(s) science and the FDA”. Protect Colorado’s Kids will also reach out to the Drug Enforcement Administration, FDA, and U.S. Attorney for Colorado to intervene in the legislation.

Supporters of magic mushroom, on the other hand, regard this vote as a big victory for their cause. Natural Medicine Colorado, the leading lobby in favor of magic mushroom legalization, said the vote was “a truly historic moment”. According to Natural Medicine Colorado, residents of the state have already experienced the medicinal benefits of psilocybin, and that has motivated them to take a stand in its favor.

Is a psychedelic drug revolution on its way?

The United States of America is undoubtedly going through a drug revolution. With recreational marijuana being legalized in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana is now legal in 21 states. Even conservative states are showing growing support for psychedelics, particularly naturally occurring psychedelics that have proven medicinal benefits.

The ballot initiative now makes growing, possessing, and consuming magic mushrooms legal. However, it’s still illegal to sell magic mushrooms. State-regulated healing centers cannot sell magic mushrooms, but only provide them to clients for medicinal use under their supervision.

There are mixed opinions on the legalization of psilocybin, but mental health proponents are by and large optimistic about the legislation. According to doctors, researchers, and even the FDA, regulated and supervised use of psilocybin has the potential to cure mental health issues like depression, addictive personality disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.