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Could Magic Mushrooms Mean the End of Depression?

Artist: Adam Hale. Image Source: inspi.com.br

Mia Cosco

I remember asking my dad a few years ago if my mom had ever tried psychedelics. 

“She did once—mushrooms!”

I looked at him, baffled. “Really?”

“Yeah, and she liked them!”

I haven’t seriously considered that I ever had depression. 

A doctor hasn’t diagnosed me with depression or prescribed me antidepressants but I have experienced different types of therapy over the years. As for my mom, she suffered from depression throughout her life.


When people close to me ask why I am such a staunch advocate for psychedelics as medicine and why I risk my public image to defend illegal substances, I not only think of my mom but the countless faces through time that have suffered, largely in silence, with depression.

Coping with depression usually comes in the form of antidepressants, talk therapy, or worse, suicide. Before I even knew about psychedelic research, I had a feeling based on my own experiences that there was some powerful potential for psychedelics to reframe complex mental illnesses.

Let’s rewind to the start of this worldwide pandemic in 2020, when a certain Johns Hopkins study was published. Not only were researchers granted permission to study the effect of psilocybin on people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but they also had their research published in JAMA Psychiatry, a highly revered academic journal only for the most significant research. A double-blind, placebo controlled (in other words a very well designed) clinical trial showed that the impact of psilocybin was “more than four times greater” than most antidepressants. In twenty-seven participants, “the effect happened within one day after the first session and sustained… all the way up to the one-month follow-up” noted Alan Davis, a co-author of the study.

The landmark research behind this study is even more groundbreaking. In 2016, Johns Hopkins researchers found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life threatening cancer. This randomized double-blind trial was followed up with 6 months later and showed 80% of the participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.

I distinctly remember seeing this research debut at Psychedelic Science 2017, one of the largest industry conferences put on by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies in Oakland, California. They had noted that this study was Johns Hopkins’ most-cited study to date—surpassing the massively impactful discoveries of saccharine, CPR, Dramamine, and rubber surgical gloves.

So with all of this evidence from a leading Western university that psychedelic treatment with psilocybin (illegal) proves to be more effective than antidepressants (legal) with major depression, why haven’t we changed how we treat depression?

Trade offer: 17.3 million American adults with MDD for a natural plant that grows in the ground. 

Well, the answer is not so simple, I’m afraid. Psychedelic medicine, even natural plants like psilocybin, are not a silver bullet.

Artist: Adam Hale. Image Source: inspi.com.br

This is better articulated by Mary Cosimano, the Director of Guide/Facilitator Services at Johns Hopkins and a co-authors on both Johns Hopkins studies. This means that she is the one holding the participants’ hands, speaking directly with them and holding space.

She says that in the sessions, “we work to create a deep sense of trust so that the participants feel comfortable to share anything and everything…” Makes sense. How else could anyone share their most intimate selves with someone they don’t trust? Only after an intimate intake conversation, “the psilocybin session follows.” Cosimano says this is intentional. “In order to relax, a safe and trusting environment is necessary… thus enabling participants to relax into a deeper and more expansive experience.” Learn more about magic mushrooms here.

This makes me wonder if these results would show at all if there wasn’t a safe space and container created for these participants to make radical and unprecedented change in themselves.

Mary Cosimano & I in 2017 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research.

What is the real mystery then? 

How essential is a sense of safety is when treating serious disorders with psychedelics?

According to Mind Cure Health, a life sciences company providing psychedelic research to digital therapeutic solutions for mental health issues, “preparing for psychedelic sessions can profoundly influence the healing journey.”

David Carpenter, a contributor at Forbes Magazine who covers the expanding legal psychedelics field says that “integration proves a crucial factor for breakthroughs.” I think these perspectives are right on the money. From experience looking at and working intimately with others in psychedelic ceremony, I believe that the profound insights and transformation of any experience are nothing without integration.

While preparation can set the stage for a safe, nurturing and comfortable experience, you can’t anticipate where the medicine will take you.

The more you surrender, the more you’re open to change… then what? You may have a mystical experience with angels or have an earth-shattering insight like a lightbulb going off in your head around how to take better care of yourself. The biggest question that voice in your head may ask after a journey is, what are you going to do about it?

For people in the depths of a long, dark night of depression, this may look like just getting out of bed. For others dealing with a divorce or a major crisis, this may look like asking for help.
The important thing to take away is that magic mushrooms may serve as a catalyst for the treatment of depression, but not a solution itself.

Mary Cosimano featured next to a participant at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research.

My mother didn’t find a way out of her pain solely through magic mushrooms. 

There were several other factors that prevented her from finding peace and genuine happiness. She didn’t have a sufficient support system in her community to help her integrate, she was depending largely on antidepressants and her marriage was falling apart.


Using magic mushrooms for treatment is a nuanced issue. For some people, they can mark the change of a lifetime and for others, they might simply mean a really nice day (or a surprisingly terrible one).

Magic mushrooms can catalyze a fundamental sense in a person that this sadness will pass. At most? Maybe that there’s more to life than coping with depression.


Pandora’s box has been opened. It’s important to employ all of your faculties in making a positive, meaningful experience of your psychedelic session even though it’s easy to play the victim.

Maybe we can intrinsically find a meaning to live in finally painting that bedroom, talking to our family again, or pursuing our most beloved career.

Whatever you do in life, you can make any meaning you want out of your experiences.

The choice is up to you.

MIA CARA COSCO is a Writer, Sound Healer and Space Holder. She became the Creative Director of the first-ever Psychedelic Salon in 2019, raising $10K and eventually launched a 6-figure business to fund psychedelic research and philosophy. Her mission is to use her 5-10 years of psychedelic medicine advocacy to heal creative entrepreneurs by writing.
**Disclaimer: Mia Cosco does not sell Magic Mushrooms herself or through Moment Mushrooms.


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Disclaimer: This story is intended for education and awareness, not medical advice

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