Could Psilocybin Offer New Hope for People with OCD?
You have tried various medications for your OCD symptoms, but nothing has helped so you decide to try an alternative treatment – a medication made from mushrooms. Could it be the relief you have been seeking? Could it work for your type of OCD? Is psilocybin the answer to your prayers? You are interested in it, but want to learn more before making a decision on whether or not to take it for your OCD. If so, you have come to the right place.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the potential of psilocybin—a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain mushrooms—to treat OCD. Could psilocybin offer a new way to treat this debilitating condition? In this article, we will take a closer look at the use of psilocybin as a possible OCD treatment and explore the risks of taking it for your condition.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety condition characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and uncontrollable behaviors (compulsions). Common obsessions include fear of contamination, fear of making mistakes, fear of contamination, or fear of something terrible happening to themselves or loved ones. Common compulsions include excessive hand washing, counting, ordering, or arranging objects. People with OCD often experience significant distress and impairment in their day-to-day lives due to their symptoms.
OCD is a lonely and life-altering mental health disorder that tends to worsen without treatment. OCD can affect a person’s self-confidence, relationships, and job performance. The most common OCD treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy. However, other treatments, like EMDR therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), hypnotherapy/hypnosis, couples therapy, trauma therapy, etc., are also sometimes used to treat OCD. When OCD therapies are ineffective, medication(s) are prescribed to treat the condition. The most common medications used to treat OCD are SSRI antidepressants.
Introduction to Psilocybin
What is psilocybin? Psilocybin is a naturally-occurring compound found in certain species of “magic mushrooms,” usually the psilocybe genus. These mushrooms can be fresh or dried. They can also be created in a lab. Psilocybin is a psychoactive substance that stimulates the brain and causes hallucinations and other altered states of consciousness when ingested.
It has been used by indigenous cultures for centuries in spiritual ceremonies and rituals and has more recently been studied for its potential therapeutic benefits. Supporters swear that it helps curb addictions, depression, anxiety, migraine, PMS, PTSD, and OCD symptoms. Although people use this compound for a variety of health conditions, there are little to no studies on the use, safety, and effectiveness of using it for these conditions.
Is Psilocybin Legal?
Psilocybin is illegal in the United States. More so, it is currently classified as a Schedule-I controlled substance.
Is Psilocybin Effective?
The jury is still out. There are little-to-no studies on the effectiveness of psilocybin for any condition at this time. More research is needed to determine its true effectiveness.
Is Psilocybin Safe?
Yes and no.
Psilocybin, when taken orally in a single dose, is generally thought to be safe – under supervision. Single-dose psilocybin has been used in controlled settings without serious complications. When complications are present they usually consist of extreme fear, persistent headaches, elevated blood pressure, paranoia, nausea, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, confusion, and mood swings.
Although psilocybin is considered a controlled substance in the US, the risk of serious complications is low. There also appears to be a low risk of psilocybin addiction or withdrawal side effects. Keep in mind, however, that there is not enough information to determine if this compound is safe to use without medical supervision – this even applies to low doses of it.
Overview of Psilocybin and OCD
Recent research suggests that psilocybin could be used to treat OCD. While the exact way this compound could benefit OCD sufferers is currently unknown, it is believed that it could reduce the severity of their intrusive thoughts, fears, doubts, mental images, urges, and/or ritualistic behaviors by altering the amount of serotonin in the brain.
A serotonin imbalance is believed to play an important role in the development of mental health conditions like OCD. Psilocybin is believed to work similarly to SSRI antidepressants in that it can boost serotonin levels in some people. Researchers also suggest that psilocybin may ease OCD-related emotional distress, although the jury is still out as to if this is true.
Psilocybin Dosage for OCD
Although illegal in the US, in other countries, adult OCD sufferers are prescribed single doses of 0.2-0.42 mg/kg of psilocybin, as part of a medically-supervised, drug-assisted psychotherapy program. It is taken by mouth. Some OCD sufferers are prescribed “microdoses” of this compound, but the correct amount of these “microdoses” for OCD is unknown due to a lack of research.
Can Psilocybin Be Combined with Other Psychotherapies?
Yes, it can.
Combining psilocybin with other psychotherapies may help OCD sufferers decipher and better understand the troubling and traumatic experiences that continue to negatively affect them – experiences that manifest in the form of OCD thoughts and behaviors.
Research on the Effectiveness of Psilocybin for Treating OCD
Studies on the effectiveness of using psilocybin for the treatment of OCD are limited, but preliminary results are promising. According to a 2014 study, people who took a 10-week course of psilocybin experienced a reduction in their OCD symptoms. Similarly, a recent 2022 study found that one dose of psilocybin significantly reduced OCD symptoms in people with severe OCD. These findings suggest that psilocybin may be an effective treatment for OCD, although further research is needed to confirm these results.
How Psilocybin Can Help Treat OCD
Psilocybin may be an effective treatment for OCD due to its ability to alter the brain’s serotonin receptors. The belief is that this compound could reduce or eliminate intrusive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors in some OCD sufferers. Researchers also believe that psilocybin could decrease OCD-related emotional distress in these individuals. It is also believed that psilocybin could safely be combined with existing treatments, such as CBT, ERP therapy, and/or medication.
Researchers have also found that psilocybin can cause immediate improvement in the severity of OCD symptoms, as compared to SSRI medications which can take 8 weeks to take effect. Psychedelics, like psilocybin, have been shown to ease OCD-related doubts and rumination. Thus, psilocybin may help OCD sufferers accomplish their tasks without worrying, non-stop, about whether or not they turned off the oven or locked the door.
What Does It Feel Like to Use Psilocybin for OCD?
If an OCD sufferer takes too much psilocybin, it can lead to frightening hallucinations, panic, paranoia, drowsiness, anxiety, depression, or psychosis, but in general, most people who take this compound for OCD report feeling “high” or euphoric, happy, and/or relieved after taking it. Psilocybin users report that it helps ease their intrusive thoughts and urges to perform rituals or routines. In other words, it “quiets” the noise in their heads, which improves their moods and quality of life.
Risks Involved in Using Psilocybin for OCD Treatment
Like all medications, using psilocybin for OCD can be risky. More specifically, using psilocybin for OCD unsupervised can lead to dangerous complications, such as hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. It may also worsen certain mental health conditions, or even trigger mental health conditions in some people. So, before taking this compound for your OCD, consult your doctor before using it to determine if it may be a viable OCD treatment for your type of OCD.
Who Should Not Take Psilocybin for OCD?
Due to possible complications, people with a history of certain mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder, mania, or psychosis, should not treat their OCD symptoms with psilocybin.
The Future of Psilocybin as a Treatment for OCD
The future looks bright for psilocybin as a treatment for OCD, although it is currently illegal in the US. Still, more research is needed to confirm it is overall safe and effective for a large portion of OCD sufferers. If psilocybin is found to be an effective treatment for OCD, it could offer new hope for people who are struggling with this debilitating condition.
Can Psilocybin be Combined with Natural Remedies?
Psilocybin can be combined with some natural remedies and self-help tools, although it is important to exercise caution when combining it with other herbs, like CBD and THC. Also exercise caution when combining this compound with herbal supplements, like St. John’s Wort.
There are some natural remedies that you can use while taking psilocybin for OCD, such as OCD workbooks and apps, hypnotherapy/hypnosis, OCD support groups, art therapy, music therapy, journaling, exercising, using crystals, practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga, changing your diet, adopting healthy coping skills and strategies, and signing up for an online OCD recovery treatment program, like Impulse Therapy.
What Do Psilocybin Users Say About The Drug?
People who are using or have used psilocybin for OCD say this about the drug:
“I suffered with OCD to the point of almost ending my life multiple times because the thoughts were so intrusive and repetitive. At the end of my rope, I decided to explore psilocybin, and not only is my OCD gone pretty much, but I also have less anxiety and feel happier as an individual. For the first time in years, I enjoy life 100x times more now.”
“I have 2 cousins and a few other relatives with diagnosed OCD. I was obsessed with multiples of 4. I would tap my fingers in sets and keep multiplying taps until they reached a multiple I was satisfied with. I used to make sure everything in the house was perfectly straight – furniture/objects on flat surfaces turned at an ever so slight angle bother the fuck out of me.
At one point, I would see it and go to bed. Then, I would stay up all night thinking about it until I got up at 2 am and fixed it. I used to walk every crack – left foot to right foot, and if I happened to step on a crack I would have to go 4 sidewalk tiles back and do it all over again. After a life-changing dose of psilocybin, I realized that the impulsive thoughts were no longer there. Psilocybin cured my OCD.”
I have been microdosing psilocybin for the past two years to treat depression and OCD and it has worked better than any medication I have ever used. It has been the biggest blessing in my life.”
“My first time with psilocybin was the most amazing experience in the world, but after that, it gave me so much anxiety. And, now when I get anxious, I get “flashbacks” to the same feeling. If you have eaten mushrooms before you know that weird feeling you get. You can’t describe it like I feel really weird anxiety sometimes and it kinda sucks, but I would also 100% do it again.
It is just weird because despite my OCD being bad, I would not have described myself as an anxious person. I thought I would go into it being so cool and collected, and ready to have a good time, but after a while, it ended up being one of the scariest things I have ever taken. Also, the first time I took psilocybin it was 1g and it was good, but the second time I took it I experienced a “bad trip.” That time I took 2.5g. The third time I took it, it was just .5g, but I was still very anxious afterward.”
As we have discussed, psilocybin has the potential to be an effective treatment for OCD. Although more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness, psilocybin appears to reduce the severity of obsessions and compulsions in some people. It may also alleviate OCD-related stress and anxiety. While psilocybin studies are limited, results have been promising, especially when combined with psychotherapy (i.e., CBT or ERP therapy).
Keep in mind, however, there are risks associated with using psilocybin for OCD. So, it is important to only use this medication under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. It is clear that psilocybin could offer new hope for people with OCD, but further research is needed to determine its true safety and effectiveness.
- Ehrmann, K., Allen, J. J. B., & Moreno, F. A. (2022). Psilocybin for the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 56, 247–259. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2021_279
- Wilcox J. A. (2014). Psilocybin and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(5), 393–395. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.963754
- Goodwin, G. M., Aaronson, S. T., Alvarez, O., Arden, P. C., Baker, A., Bennett, J. C., Bird, C., Blom, R. E., Brennan, C., Brusch, D., Burke, L., Campbell-Coker, K., Carhart-Harris, R., Cattell, J., Daniel, A., DeBattista, C., Dunlop, B. W., Eisen, K., Feifel, D., Forbes, M., … Malievskaia, E. (2022). Single-Dose Psilocybin for a Treatment-Resistant Episode of Major Depression. The New England Journal of Medicine, 387(18), 1637–1648. Retrieved from Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2206443
- Ehrmann, K., Allen, J. J. B., & Moreno, F. A. (2022). Psilocybin for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 56, 247–259. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2021_279
- WebMD. (n.d.). Psilocybin. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1654/psilocybin