Can Magic Mushrooms Help Heal Spinal Injuries?

It's all about neuroplasticity
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2022 5:27 PM CST
Can Magic Mushrooms Help Heal Spinal Injuries?
   (Getty - Yarygin)

In 2014, Jim Harris broke nine vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down following a snowkiting accident in Chile. After surgery and months of physical therapy, he recovered enough to hobble around with a walker, but he still couldn’t get his right hamstring to "wake up." According to Rachel Mabe of Outside, that changed when a friend offered Harris a dose of "magic mushrooms" at a music festival. It was his first big outing since his injury, but his disability was bringing him down; he ate them just hoping to have a good time. Soon after—like many people who indulge in psilocybin, the active drug in 'shrooms—he found himself enjoying a colorful sunset and cloud patterns more than usual. But he also noticed his right hamstring contracting for the first time since his injury.

It wasn’t a hallucination: The next day, the hamstring was still active, apparently the result of a "rewired" neuromuscular connection. Research in recent decades—including a landmark 2006 study by Roland Griffiths—suggests psilocybin is a powerful tool against depression and PTSD. But can it help repair a spine? Neurologists say it’s possible thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability adapt: psilocybin increases neurotransmitter activity, making healthy neurons more sensitive while promoting regeneration of neuronal pathways. Psilocybin advocates say more research is needed, and they have support from research institutions and venture capitalists alike. Several states have also decriminalized the psychedelic, including Harris’s home state of Colorado, where voters approved Proposition 122 last Tuesday. (Read the whole story here.)

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