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Can magic mushrooms get you over a breakup?

Can magic mushrooms get you over a breakup?
When you think of magic mushrooms, you may think of colourful hallucinations and dreamlike trips, but did you know magic mushrooms have a history of medicinal use?
To truly understand mushrooms as medicine, we must start at the beginning. In many, incredibly varied indigenous communities across pre-colonised Mexico, mushrooms and peyote—a cactus—were some of nature’s most sacred plants. Used during ceremonies, a shamanic leader guided and a purpose was set, whether to heal, experience a shift in perspective or gain a greater understanding of the world around them. 
In 1955, an American mycologist R Gordon Wassan visited María Sabina, a shaman from Oaxaca, and took part in a mushroom ceremony. Two years later, Life magazine ran a story titled, “The discovery of mushrooms that cause strange visions”, launching mushrooms into US mainstream culture. 
Psychedelic mushrooms
Magic mushrooms have a long history of medicinal use among indigenous communities © Cannabis Pictures via Wikimedia Commons
In the 1960s, the concept of “a trip”—an enlightening psychedelic experience to awaken your consciousness—became a rite of passage for young people. Psychedelic drugs became woven into the anti-Vietnam counterculture movement, as young people unsubscribed from the inhumane actions of American politics. 
At the same time, clinical trials were taking place to test mushroom’s active ingredient (psilocybin) on depression, anxiety and addiction. In 1971, President Richard Nixon, seeing these drugs as a threat to the status-quo, placed all psychedelics in Schedule 1—the equivalent to Class A in the UK—and under this category were no longer considered fit for medical use. 
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A long journey back

It took 22 years for psychedelic research to be approved again. Since then, John Hopkins University’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research have reported psilocybin has assisted smokers to quit, eased anxiety in cancer patients and helped lead to treatments for alcohol abuse.
Researchers hypothesise that psilocybin assists in the formation of new neurological pathways, resulting in a move away from ingrained and replayed limiting self-narratives of who we are and how we operate in the world. This helps to rewire depressive or anxious thought patterns, which, no longer stuck on a loop, create new branches of thinking, and subsequently changed behaviour. 
"Researchers hypothesise that psilocybin helps to rewire depressive or anxious thought patterns"
In Mexico, Emilio’s* organisation seeks to recover information about Native American medicine and practices. Along with a psychiatrist, they offer three-to-six-month microdose mushroom prescriptions and combined-therapy sessions to patients. Although not strictly legal, there are loopholes, and the practice is common in Mexico. 
Holly* took a six-month prescription and described a profound effect, helping her move on from the trauma of a break-up

Recovering ancestral knowledge 

Emilio and the psychiatrist analyse each patient and their unique situation on a case-by-case basis, using methods and techniques aligned with Native American philosophy. 
The individual might be experiencing personal problems, but if they have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or PTSD, they will first have a session with the psychiatrist. At this stage, it is decided how frequently the person requires therapy alongside the prescription.
Peyote plays an important role in many indigenous cultures © Karelj via Wikimedia Commons
“It’s in line with María Sabina’s theories when she treated people. That is what we are trying to rescue,” he explains. “The mushroom is the child spirit. It takes people back to neuroplasticity.” 
“For me, it’s important to learn from ancient communities who still use it today. We are recovering this knowledge. This is Native American wisdom, mixed with Western culture.” 
To enhance neuroplasticity—the concept of forming new pathways in the brain—they recommend combining the prescription with mind-benefiting activities, such as sport, art, yoga, meditation or reading. 
"Microdoses ought to be taken in harmony with their original purpose in native groups: applied consciously and with intention"
He emphasises that the microdoses are not a consumer item to be bought, used and bought again. They ought to be taken in harmony with their original purpose in native groups: applied consciously and with intention. 
“This is a tool for their lives, but they don’t need to use it all their lives. We cannot just constantly sell to people, it’s not an enterprise,” he says. “The original Native American knowledge is about using these sacred substances to offer yourself to nature and ask nature life’s big questions. Similarly, you have to integrate thought-provoking activities to harness their benefits.” 
“It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time,” he says, “but most people have amazing results. It starts to change their lives. People with depression, they experience a huge change.” 

New neurological pathways, new life paths 

Holly* went travelling in Mexico after a two-year relationship abruptly ended and heard about Emilio’s organisation. 
“I’d watched documentaries before, Fantastic Fungi and The Mind, Explained episode on psychedelics, so I had a bit of background on how psilocybin was being tested clinically,” she explains. 
As Holly didn’t have a diagnosed mental health condition, she opted for the prescription without therapy. She’d take the six-month prescription four days on and three days off for the first three months, followed by once every three days for the remaining three. 
"It’s fascinating to know that a solution to the human mind’s ailments could be answered by the natural world"
Despite not having a formal diagnosis, Holly did report struggles with her mental health back in the UK. Before her trip, her partner suddenly ended their two-year relationship, and it triggered a lot of feelings regarding her self-worth. With waiting lists too long on the NHS, Holly paid for private therapy, but felt resolute she didn’t want to take antidepressants. 
“I didn’t like the idea of being on them for life. I wanted to address the root of the problem, not the symptom,” she explains. 
Holly incorporated journaling, painting, sketching, yoga and meditation during different periods of the six months, to support neuroplasticity. 
“I was always holding on to the pain of my break-up, wondering when I would move on, if ever. I had this limiting-self-belief that I would never meet a romantic partner, even while I was travelling, and life should feel full of possibilities. After three months of taking the psilocybin, I felt a shift. It creates new neurological pathways, making new connections in the brain. I feel like I’ve evolved away from it all. Now, I am still single, but I really believe I will meet someone amazing.”  
Psilocybin is far away from being incorporated into the world of prescription drugs, and there are still risks, particularly when taken in larger doses with the intention of tripping. 
That being said, it’s fascinating to know that following a 22-year dormancy, their medicinal benefits are being tested once more, and a solution to the human mind’s ailments could be answered by the natural world
*Emilio and Holly are using false names to protect their identity, but their stories are true.  

Time for a new relationship?

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Users are required to fill out a short quiz to determine their core values in relation to others, and this powers many useful tools to help them find love (including compatibility scores, personality profiles, and relationship advice). 
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