Can Magic Mushrooms Unlock Depression? | Rosalind Watts | TEDxOxford

Translator: Hiroko Kawano
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs This is Kirk. He suffered from depression
for five years. He tried antidepressants, talking therapy, and nothing helped. In May 2015, in Imperial College,
he was given psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms. And since that time
he’s been depression free. This is Ben. He suffered from depression for 30 years. And in that time he tried everything:
CBT, group therapy, a list of medications
prescribed to him by his doctor, and nothing helped. In June 2015, he was given psilocybin, and since that time
he has been depression free. Not only had the symptoms
of his depression gone, but in the last year, he has done an acting course,
a printing course, he’s flown on a plane
for the first time in a decade, and his career and social life
are flourishing. I can’t show you his face because magic mushrooms
are an illegal psychedelic drug, and he’s asked to remain anonymous. Magic mushrooms – you might think of the ’60s, dropping out, jumping out of windows
thinking you can fly. You might think of going crazy, quite the opposite of what magic
mushrooms did to Ben and to Kirk. And despite its bad reputation,
we need to ask the question: What does this mushroom
know that we don’t? What does it do that we can’t? I’m a clinical psychologist
at the psychedelic research group at Imperial. It’s a vibrant group
of scientists and clinicians asking these very unconventional questions
in a most conventional way. It is led by Robin Carhart-Harris –
he’s a pioneering neuroscientist, and also overseen by David Nutt, who is a world-renowned
psychopharmacologist. And together they cut through
ribbons and ribbons of red tape so that we could do the first
psilocybin for depression study last year. And in this study, 20 individuals
with treatment-resistant depression, were given a high dose of psilocybin
in a therapeutic setting. Now, the numbers of may seem small,
but the results were remarkable. We kept seeing these drops
in their depression scores after the psilocybin treatment
over and over again. Their symptoms of depression
were going right down, much bigger reductions
in depression scores than you would expect to see
in trials of conventional treatments like antidepressants and talking therapy. The depression scores
were going right down, and they were staying down. Six months after the dose, six of them were still in remission,
no symptoms of depression. Three of them didn’t really
respond to the drug, so there were small
reductions in their depression but only for about a week. But for 11, their depression
was greatly reduced for about two months, and then the symptoms of depression
started to creep back again. Now, that might sound very disappointing, but with antidepressants,
you have to take them every day. They have some unpleasant side effects;
it takes weeks for them to work. And they are a palliative
treatment, not a cure. But with psilocybin treatment, we were seeing immediate reductions
in depression symptoms, immediate relief that last for months,
without side effects, and it seemed to be working
on the root causes rather than just suppressing symptoms. Depression is a relentless,
haunting affliction. Winston Churchill called it the black dog. Patients in our study called it
a concrete coat, a sack over the head, a locked box, a prison. They had tried between
three and 11 types of antidepressants and six types of talking therapy, but nothing had released them. They were stuck in their individual
prisons of depression. And they’re not the odd ones out. We are entering an epidemic of depression. It’s the number one cause
of disability globally, and it will affect everyone in this room – either someone you care about
or you directly. And we don’t understand depression. We don’t really know what causes it. And despite enormous scientific endeavor,
we have not yet found a conclusive cure. We don’t really understand it. It’s a complex mixture
of so many different factors. And when it hits, it can be
a wave of sadness shame and grief, or it can be just a shroud
that kills all feelings. And it’s not an illness
that we can just test for and treat. It’s different for every person. So how to unlock depression? The key is never simple,
and it will be different for each person. So, in our study, we were originally looking at the effect
of psilocybin on the patients’ brains. So it makes the brain
go from rigid to flexible, hyper-connected. You could say that it unlocks the brain. So in our study, we did these brain scans, and we could see
this increased flexibility. And we also included
a symptom measure, so we could see that depression
symptoms were going right down. But that doesn’t tell the full story. We wanted to know from patients
in their own words. What was happening? What was the psilocybin doing? So we interviewed them all
six months after the dose, and we analysed the interview transcripts
and came up with two themes about what psilocybin was doing. But before I get onto those themes, I think maybe I should clarify
what a psychedelic experience is. So psychedelics allow the unconscious
mind to become conscious. Important material that has
been built up over the course of life but that has been pushed out of sight
where you can’t see it, emerges, like –
it’s kind of crumpled clothes that you push to the back
of your wardrobe, and it emerges, it comes out; you don’t just see it, you embody it. Memories, emotions, pain, love, grief – whatever has been hidden
emerges and demands you feel it. It can be incredibly painful
and incredibly beautiful. Patients in our study described overall
having three main types of experience. So firstly, visiting past traumas; secondly, having insights
about your life – negative patterns and how to change them; and thirdly, these experiences
of harmony and connection and unity. And sometimes they would have
all three experiences in the course of one dosing session. So here’s our treatment room. And you would have the two therapists
either side of the patient. They’d be given eye shades and asked
to sit back and listen to the music, and just surrender to whatever comes up. And they would have had sessions
with the therapists beforehand so that they trusted them
and they felt safe. But the therapist doesn’t structure
the sessions at all or direct the content in any way. But there was a structure to sessions. There was a beginning,
a middle, and an end, and a flow of ideas and symbols
that built on each other in the most sophisticated way, as if it had been planned
by a most excellent therapist. Now, in my previous work
as a non-psychedelic psychologist, providing talking therapies in the NHS, I would plan my sessions for my patients and think, how can I help them
talk about traumatic experiences or how could I help them
get a different perspective or develop some self-compassion
or some motivation for change. And I’d try and instill all these things. But it’s all coming from the therapist; the patient experiences it
as somehow outside of themselves, and it sometimes just misses the mark. But with the psilocybin sessions, I was witnessing patients
go on their own journeys of healing, the ideas all came from inside themselves, and they were powerful and transformative. Because the lessons were planned
by the most accurate therapist there is: themselves. So, the themes: What did the patients say
the psilocybin did? The clicker is broken. Can I have another clicker? (Laughter) Okay. The next slide isn’t coming up,
but I’ll tell you what it says. It says that the first theme
was of an inner unlocking. So patients described going
from being emotionally locked up inside to being emotionally liberated. They described going
from being avoidant of emotion to accepting emotion. So, they talked about how in depression, when stressful or painful things happened, emotions were distanced or suppressed. They – our society
doesn’t really value suffering. It’s seen as a weakness. So they’d learned to put
their feelings in boxes. Sam remembered growing up
and being told ‘Boys don’t cry’, so he learnt to suffer in silence. And many of the patients just –
they couldn’t deal with their feelings because so much
had happened in their lives, they had so many years of hurt, they just didn’t have
the resources to face it all. And they had many different
ways of avoiding their pain, self-medicating through food,
through television, through painkillers and then often through antidepressants, which didn’t really work
on the root causes of their suffering, just numb the worst of the pain. But they also numbed other emotions too. And so many of the patients described
feeling numb and unable to feel. Many of them had described experiencing trauma in their life,
often in early childhood. And they’ve never been able to process it
or think about what had happened. And in their psilocybin experiences,
they were able to process these things. John – Where’s John? John here – He had suffered from abuse in childhood, and in his psilocybin dose,
he saw a great big cask, and he knew that in that cask
with all of his pain and shame that he’d never been
able to think or talk about. And he grappled with it.
It was extremely painful. But in the course of the session, he was able to unlock that box
and accept his past. And it was so powerful. Many of them cried
for the first time in years. This cathartic experience
of accepting emotion and just being able to live it. We saw in six hours what you would
often see in six years of therapy. And now the second theme
is of an outer unlocking. So, they described going
from disconnection to connection. So, they talked about depression
as a gradual turning inward, slowly becoming disconnected
from the people you love, from your identity and becoming just kind of
trapped in their minds, trapped in a small corner of their minds, locked there with constant negative
thinking attacking them all the time, and the psilocybin
started a process of reconnection. So Ben described it this way. He said, ‘It was like when you defrag
the hard drive on your computer. I experienced things
being rearranged in my mind, I witnessed it
as it was all put into order, and I thought my brain is being defragged! How brilliant is that? And since that time my thoughts
make sense, and I ruminate less.’ And other patients
described the same process but in a different way. Some described it as the fog lifting
or being able to see clearly. John said it was like turning
on the lights in a dark house. And after that mental reboot, they were able to connect to their senses, they would connect
to their self, their identity. Kirk said he felt like
he was gliding through life, and they could connect to other people. John went for dinner with his wife
for the first time in seven years, said that they were like teenagers again. Many of them felt a connection to nature. They didn’t just see nature
as a thing like a television or a picture, but they felt part of it. And they connected to a spiritual
principle for the first time – some of them. Overall, they went from being trapped
to being unlocked, expanded and free. So, altered states of consciousness
have been held in high esteem for thousands of years around the world. But the scientific research
is in its infancy, and we’re excited to be doing
a bigger study this year. But we’re still treading carefully. We don’t know so much about it yet. And it won’t be right for everyone. So, we’re treading carefully, and we’re going to learn
so much over next five years about how and when
psilocybin can help us. But I believe that it could
revolutionize mental healthcare. Patience in our study described
all these superficial treatments, short-term therapies,
sticking plasters that didn’t help. Nothing had ever helped because nothing had ever
got to the heart of their pain. And in this epidemic of depression,
there are so many people in need, so many people need help, and the NHS can’t afford
to provide long-term treatments, years and years
of psychotherapy for everyone. But I believe that
if we incorporate psilocybin into existing short-term therapies
like the therapies I used to work in, that we can make them so much
more effective, so much more powerful. It’s supplementing therapy with a medicine that lets you find a way
out of your suffering rather than just padding the cage. So, can magic mushrooms
unlock depression? The answer is ‘no’. It’s not the mushroom
that unlocks depression, it’s the patient. The mushroom just shows them the key. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. It works, the plants want healing to occur that will rewire the world. We are part of a great Unity that is Love.

  2. psilocybin has a wonderful reputation,'s mushrooms in general that have a kak rep,..mycophobia is a stupidity, propogated by unshroomed xenophobes.

  3. I am suffering from depression, anxiety and an ego too big for my momentary situation. Selfloathing, because I can't reach the goals I set for myself.
    For years now, every day I look into the mirror with hatred. I don't know how it feels like to love myself and I can't comprehend people who do.
    I'm thinking about trying shrooms for quite some time now, because nothing I tried helped to fix my psyche.

  4. Psilocybin transcends mere scientific analysis, great talk and thanks for upload, but Psilocybin is an ongoing teacher not a one stop association, one's spiritual disposition is an ever evolving life of gnosis or self discovery, and self-love and learning about the nature of one's self, and this loving being. One continues to work with the mushroom in order to develop one's capacity to 'walk the walk' of spiritual principles in action, and address the ongoing 'dis-ease' that results from leaving the house and being exposed to a world of people, places and things that are riddled with spiritual dis-ease, hurt, suffering, and who are locked into all the ego dominated pursuits and fruitless hopes of finding 'inner peace' from material consumption. Psilocybin is a wonderful meditation tool for low and mystical doses, and a wonderful tool for micro-dosing on a degree of regularity that is determined by your own relationship with the mushroom, as the mushroom will teach you how to go about establishing your own relationship with it. It's not about 'tuning in and dropping out' in any sense, rather ' nurturing and developing a 'you' that is best able to engage with life as one encounters it'.

  5. So what you are saying is mushrooms unlock the doorway to all those negative emotions and you are the one who faces it head on and cures yourself (you are the therapist essentially).. There is a huge amount of emphasis on yourself and your character and not all will benefit from this and in fact the opposite could happen and a slightly depressed person could turn into a hugely anxious person in a psych ward.. I think there are healthier ways to cure depression..

  6. I’m buying a 1/2 tomorrow. Can anyone recommend a dose in grams to try to help with my depression? I’ve done mushrooms before but usually 3.5 grams at once. I think I will try 4.5

  7. I have aspergers and have experienced periods of depression for the last couple of years. I have tried cognitive behavioral therapy and it just stressed me out. These drugs sound like an amazing breakthrough and a more effective treatment then cbt!

  8. Her description of how antidepressant s numb all the feelings is incredibly accurate. Everything she says is incredibly accurate. Magic mushrooms are illegal because the Big pharma Nazis want to sell their drugs and don't want us cured, or more effectively treated. Makes me wonder about what they know truly about cancer and the others

  9. I think the added temporary interneuronal synapse connections thanks to marijuana and especially the psychedelics are literal wiring upgrades to our brains that can be made permanent through normal neuroplasticity learning. These new connections give parts of our brains new access to both our current sensory perceptions, heightening them and making us more appreciative of everything we experience, while also giving parts of our brains new access to memories making even our memories heightened with literally new mental perspectives on them. It’s like a physical empathy, giving our brains the ability to have new and more diverse perspectives on everything, past and present.

    These substances widely have the reputation as creativity-enhancers but I think actually they’re empathy-enhancers creating new perspectives, giving artists greater ability to imagine how a wider audience will perceive their work while it’s in progress, making it more creative as a result.

    Legalize, release, expunge and give industry advantages to the minorities most harmed.

  10. Maybe depression is the side effect of the human mind subconsciously knowing that it's not able to perform at its up most ability. Psychedelics help open that block and let the mind's energy flow openly and independently… Hmmm

  11. Anyone disagree on this? I only see positive comments regarding this and I'd like to know the other side of it.

  12. I had my experience with mushrooms and I quit smoking and started to have a healthy life since then… Almost like magic.

  13. Stop presenting psilocybin as some sort of miracle. I'm very interested in what effect psilocybin can have, and have tried it many times, but this woman sound like a preacher talking about god.

  14. The thing is Drugs don’t do the same thing for everyone. So believing you can fly is just as possible as curing your depression. I’m not against mushrooms but you really don’t know what your going to get with mushrooms. Completely sorted my life out after my first 5g journey… However I’ve seen friends completely bottle it, wig out and never be sane again.

  15. Having been depressed all my life (I'm 72) I got incredibly excited by this. I travelled to Holland and bought some magic truffles. I got no psychedelic effects, no bliss, no hallucinations, just a bit giddy, and a little bit of numbness. And the biggest feelings of overwhelming anger and depression and the ongoing thought that I wished this were the last day of my life … not in an "ego death" way, just plain dead. I couldn't be more disappointed. I totally believe all the positive reports from others; I'm just profoundly sad that what I hoped might relieve a lifetime problem didn't work for me.

  16. find, within yourself, the love that embraces the humility and suffering of humanity and see life…from the perspective of all things that live and breath upon this earth…this is your connection to nature…your right to live….and the empathy you all that will ever matter.

  17. if anyone is interested, look up psilocybin mushroom's impact on cluster headaches! incredible, especially considering how little treatment is available for those afflicted with them

  18. im 30 yrs old. been taking meds since the mid 90's. nothing works. depression is for sure like being in a prison in your own head. no cure, just guesses by a so called "professional" and having Asperger's feeds it. considering micro dosing with this. anyone with experience, feel free to comment. i want to learn b4 i do.

  19. Mushrooms work. I think the mass depression is from chemicals and preservates in food. Serotontin is made in your gut. Additives like E621 MSG E951 Aspartame

  20. I had suicidal thoughts from 7 years old and several attempts to kill myself stemming from childhood abuse. At 22 mushrooms saved my mind and my life and I haven't been haunted by suicidal ideation ever since. Now I am in training to become a psychotherapist to help others trapped in the same pit I was in for so many years. God bless.

  21. This is the only thing I've found that's helped me out with all my issues I've been struggling with half my life. Pretty big tragedy how inaccessible they are though. The spores are illegal in my state so I spent half the year trying to find someone who had some, only for him to massively short me and steal my money

  22. There is no single formula that guarantees any outcome. Disease and disorder WILL manifest. Microdosing is a sane approach with less risk of negative conditioning.

  23. I dabbled a bit with them in my teens & had a mixture of incredible & horrific times.
    I've suffered with depression & anxiety and also PTSD after several seriously traumatic events both in early and later in life. A friend found an old dusty bag about 2 years back now. He asked me if I wanted them.
    Initially I thought 'Not on your f***ing life'… But then I started to remember what I had regarded as 'bad trips'.
    Even though initially they felt horrific, they showed me my fears, very honestly…
    So I said 'Yes' a week or two later & found a little bag on my doorstep.
    They were old, dried & dusty. I estimated that the whole bag would cause a trip so instead opted to just 'dip a toe'. I wet my index finger and just took enough to cover my fingertip.
    I sucked my finger,
    spent a bit of time on the net & then slept.

    The next day I woke up like a 10 year old on the first day of Summer.
    Not only had the depression lifted but my creativity levels were through the roof.
    I designed a pop-up lunar module & began to build it out of steel after 10 YEARS of being like a complete comatosed zombie. My mind had not only returned, but was inventing stuff at a rate I could barely keep up with. Sadly I only had a very small quantity of the old powder which lasted only maybe 4 or 5 small doses.
    This was long before I was made aware of Any Kind of study, or Paul Stamets & any of his research.
    I'm back to being agoraphobic & bed ridden now. My mobility is poor & my mood is low.
    I'm taking a whole string of chemical medications that barely mask the teeth of my depression.
    They chase each other's side effects away long enough for me to sleep for a few hours here & there.
    I barely eat. I've no motivation & I'm absolutely exhausted.

    What I wouldn't give for a tub of that musty old powder… :/

  24. Due to PTSD, frontal/l temporal lobe epilepsy due to TBI, and due to the combination of signs and symptoms associated, I've been using psylocybin and very clean LSD once every few months. I just took about 2.5g of a variant of P. Cubensis called G.T. Stardust which is just stunningly useful for dissociating to basically talk to myself, my subconscious so I can reprogram my brain; Thanks to the fact that there is N-DMT involved. I'm using it in conjunction with Modafinil, Gabapentin, High CBD, CBG, and low-dose THC. It seems to be working quite well.

  25. Either she's whispering or Ted needs to check their levels on these uploads. The commercials are WAY louder than the audio on this video

  26. Magic mushrooms are banned and criminalized cause the pharmaindustrie can‘t make money with a medicine that grows everywhere for free. So, they made a criminal deal with the governments all over the world and forbade plants that are given us by God for the healing of humanity. Corrupted politicians should be banned.

  27. Tried this with LSD, and the depression went away instantly. I have not have a single depressive thought since then and i'm so thankful!!! Psychedelics really have ALOT of potential.

  28. Why is the volume on this so incredibly low? I can’t even hear it at work with Beats headphones and water running near me

  29. I hope those interested would look into peyote use, and all psychedelics serving shamanic tribal peoples since the dawn of time. It takes you out of being an isolated individual and you become the universe and all its beauty and all of its vastness and all of its living creatures and people live in and amongst your body and soul. The word depression becomes so foreign it no longer has any meaning. There is only forward and upwards to travel in your life, there is infinite beauty in the universe and you are it and you are nature, humans have forgotten that. Depression is when you no longer remember you are connected and you will fruitlessly chase after things that will only give you a brief satisfaction, instead of making this one moment your whole life and pursuing wherever it takes you.

    it is not within your understanding to know what I mean, unless you have travelled the distance yourself.
    what I am saying means nothing. This is only my testimonial, you will have your own experience.
    Just keep in mind… the mushroom will not give you what you want, it will give you what you need in that one moment.

  30. Hard to legalize natural medicine when big pharma has so much pull in what's supposed to be a government for the people by the people. Such lies from the very beginning.

  31. You combine psilocybin with an anxiolytic. MDMA works and Tilidin works very well. To make sure the treatment works. You'll need a high dose. It works with treatment resistant depression, with very bad cases. If you do this right it will work 100%. It is an absolute wonder. It is the real deal 100%. What this woman is saying is absolutely true.

  32. Shouldn’t be illegal for adults to decide to have an experience or not in their own life. This needs to change. I can use addictive alcohol but can’t use something with therapeutic value… no sense

  33. I have some shrooms and I just don’t got the time to use them I’m very tempted to do them even tho it’s not the right time. I like witchcraft

  34. Depression is a deficiency. Scibin is a nutrient. Psilophobia is a mental disease most similar to anorexia or selective eating disorder.

  35. Amazing, As a long time beer drinker, which like to get out of the habit I found there are many receptors similar with mushrooms that can overcome the drinking habits

  36. I'm sure this is interesting and on point. Too bad the volume is so low can't hear a thing. Even hooked up speakers and it barely comes through… Not enough to understand

  37. Reading through some of these comments gives me hope. I dont know if this is the key but feeling hopeful is the best thing I've felt in years. Bless

  38. Shrooms changed my life. I was at the beach and just saw a bunch of shapes and patterns and the beach turned into a Forrest and I ran into the Forrest, the clouds looked like ancient gods shinning light on me and the world seemed brighter. I saw rainbows and faces in the sky. Then a voice telling me to let go of the past because that person is dead and the new me doesn’t have anxiety or depression anymore. In my trip I died and was reborn. I been taking medications on and off and going to therapy for two years and nothing cured my postpartum depression. I was even hospitalized many times for anxiety attacks but all of those memories disappeared and I saw a light. Then once the hallucinations calmed down. I couldn’t stop laughing with my friend for hours. After it was over I didn’t feel depressed anymore or anxiety for the FIRST TIME. I was so happy I couldn’t stop crying. I was feeling suicidal and I decided to try something drastic and it seriously saved my life. No amount of therapy, religion, medication or anything on this planet would of done what shrooms did to me. I took 2grams and picked a gorgeous location and was with my best friend. Location and people is everything to make sure you have a good and beautiful trip.

  39. I was depressed my entire life, tried mushroom at 30 years old (about 8 times in the course of 5 months), I’m 35 now and my depression hasn’t returned, not once. The best part is that I don’t have to continue to do it. It was a permanent fix for me.

  40. I can categorically say without any shadow of a doubt I 100% cured my clinically diagnosed depression with 1 session of LSD. So I would say yes, psilocybin can do the same.

  41. volume was terribly low could hardly hear presentation. checked my speakers, they were working properly. Please fix this problem because it is an interesting subject.

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