“Shrooming” with Bipolar Disorder: A Psilocybin Survey Study

on June 9, 2020 31 comments
“Shrooming” with Bipolar Disorder: A Psilocybin Survey Study

Enthusiasm and emerging evidence for the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic compounds has led researchers from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to begin plans to study psilocybin (the primary psychoactive compound in “magic mushrooms”) for the treatment of depression in adults with bipolar disorder. The UCSF lab is teaming up with CREST.BD on an exciting new project as the initial step towards a clinical trial being planned at UCSF. The goal of the study? To assess the safety, impact, and cultural practices of “magic mushroom” use among adults with bipolar disorder.

The goal of the study? To assess the safety, impact, and cultural practices of “magic mushroom” use among adults with bipolar disorder.

The UCSF team consists of Dr. Josh Woolley, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Dr. Mollie Pleet, a clinical psychologist and research fellow (full bios below). The researchers work within Dr. Woolley’s Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) Lab, a research center exploring pharmacological interventions to enhance social connections among adults with mental illness. In recent years, BAND Lab has expanded its focus from treating people with schizophrenia and related disorders to studying an emerging topic area within the field of psychiatry: psychedelic therapy. The lab is conducting the first clinical trials of psilocybin for difficult-to-treat psychiatric conditions, including mood symptoms in adults with Parkinson’s disease and emotional distress in adults with chronic pain. We will soon be conducting the world’s first clinical trial of psilocybin to treat depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder type II. In preparation for this clinical trial, set to commence in 2021, the BAND Lab sparked collaboration with CREST.BD team members based at UBC to conduct an initial mixed-methods study to explore the risks, intentions, and general outcomes for adults with bipolar disorder who have used “magic mushrooms.”

A bundle of small beige mushrooms growing on a log.

Motivation for this mixed-methods study stems from concern that the use of psilocybin among people with bipolar disorder could be associated with adverse clinical or mood symptoms. Indeed, people with bipolar disorder have been excluded from all previous clinical trials of psilocybin therapy due to fears of inducing mania or increasing suicidality. To tap the wisdom and experiences of community psychedelics users, we are conducting an online survey to learn more about how and why people with bipolar disorder use “magic mushrooms.” We want to know about the effects of full psychedelic mushroom “trips” on respondents’ health, safety, mood symptoms and wellbeing. A subset of survey respondents will be invited to engage in a qualitative interview to help us take a deeper dive into their experiences.

Together, these findings suggest that psilocybin therapy could have benefits for depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder as well.

Therapy using psilocybin typically includes a brief course of psychotherapy paired with one or two administrations of psilocybin. This novel treatment paradigm is receiving a lot of attention in the scientific and medical literature. Research into the effects of psilocybin in people experiencing treatment-resistant depression suggest that the compound’s short-acting psychedelic effects may promote long-lasting benefits in mood and anxiety symptoms with relatively benign physiological consequences1. After one or two administrations, psilocybin therapy has been observed to reduce anxiety (in a study conducted with cancer patients)2 and depression symptoms1 as well as substance use problems3, often for several months post-treatment2. Psilocybin appears to have antidepressant effects in animals4 and has been shown to induce long-lasting improvements in optimism and wellbeing5 in general population users. Together, these findings suggest that psilocybin therapy could have benefits for depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder as well. If this project piques your interest, sign up for the CREST Currents newsletter for updates, or bookmark the lab website. we’re hoping to launch the survey phase of our new BAND Lab-CREST.BD collaborative project in the coming weeks!

We’ll announce on when the survey is ready! Sign up for our CREST Currents newsletter to receive the announcement, or check back on the blog in the fall. You can also learn more about Dr. Woolley’s lab at UCSF’s BAND Lab.


About the Authors

Mollie M. Pleet, PsyD

I am a clinical psychologist and research fellow in UCSF’s BAND Lab. After earning my psychology doctorate in 2018, I completed a clinical fellowship at the San Francisco VA Medical Center where I specialized in treating Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders. With a deepened appreciation for the challenges of recovery and a newfound curiosity about the role of consciousness in health, I next accepted a research position where I focus exclusively on exploring the therapeutic effects of psilocybin. I am working to contribute empirical evidence for the effects of consciousness-expanding drugs on the health and wellbeing of psychiatric populations.

Josh Woolley, MD, PhD

I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist and the Director of the BAND lab. We in the BAND lab believe that strong interpersonal relationships are the bedrock of mental health. Therefore, our mission is to develop novel pharmacological and cognitive interventions that help patients with mental illness connect meaningfully to other people and the world. Toward this goal, I have led my team in researching pharmacological treatments that affect social processes. We have conducted studies pairing administration of oxytocin, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), and psilocybin with various psychotherapy interventions. Given the difficult-to-treat depressive symptoms commonly found in bipolar disorder and the promising data suggesting psilocybin assisted psychotherapy may be an effective treatment for unipolar depression, I am developing the first clinical trial to determine if psilocybin therapy can safely and effectively treat Bipolar depression. The mixed-methods study described above is the first step towards this goal.


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31 Comments on ““Shrooming” with Bipolar Disorder: A Psilocybin Survey Study”

  1. Wow. This seems like such a good idea. The most debilitating part of my bipolar is the social aspect of my life it has lowly sucked away. I am socially uncomfortable most of the time and long for the days way back when before I was diagnosed and I was self medicating. I was getting along really well on purple micro dot (lsd), black beauties, yellow jackets, and weed. Nobody knew there was anything wrong with me until I gave up all that nonsense, got married and settled down with a high powered, high stress job. In walk the 80s, booze, and cocaine. I got divorced, spent 5 years sober in AA and then landed in suicide watch. It’s been pretty much down hill since then. BUT I’M STABLE yea.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Nancy. I think your experiences would really be of interest to the study investigators. If you’re interested, maybe you could check back in the fall to learn about how you can participate in the survey?

  2. Can I be part of the study? I have a sever case of Bi-polar 1 but i do good with psychedelics. Cerebral highs from cannabis have been life changing for me. I have only “tripped” on cannabis, but everytime I come out of that type of high i feel more healed. Good memories coming back and verbalizing my experience has been setting me free too.

    I guess if you can contact me at lgcmr27@gmail.com about being in the study. I couldn’t find contact information for those running the study so I figured leaving a message here would be the next best option.

  3. Is there somewhere that I can follow this research? I am curious because I believe trying psylocibin mushrooms can have a positive effect, even on those with Bipolar. Do you need people who have Bipolar but don’t use mushrooms? If so, I would definitely be interested.

    • Hi Shawn. We’ll be making a recruitment announcement somewhere around September or October, depending on when the survey opens up. So I’d recommend following us on Facebook or Twitter, or checking back here in the fall. The recruitment announcement should have the info you need on involvement when it comes out. Hope that answers your question – take care!

  4. Do you need a doctor’s permission to participate? Will you be accepting test subjects in Texas? Bipolar 2. Thanks.

    • Hi Kris! The study is still in its final preparation stages, and more details will be ready later–probably not until September or October. We’ll write a blog post then with more information about who can participate. If you’d like to get in contact with the researchers in advance, you can email them here: bandlab@ucsf.edu

  5. Hi, I am a writer of young adult fantasy novels – early chapter books for 9-11 year-olds . . . which contain all types of fantastical creatures, animals & settings . . . which I pride myself on inventing! I have bipolar disorder and stable now, and have been for some years, as I am on various prescribed medications (3) under the supervision of a very well-known psychiatrist. Although I have told by many that I am “the most creative person they know” – I yearn to see if magic mushrooms or other such psychedelic substances could allow me to increase my creative imagination – to create even more numerous, humorous, and fascinating human and animal characters for kids! Could you please help me try this in a controlled way?I would be extremely grateful, and I hope I could add something unique to your research. I have a BA in history from Columbia University, and an MBA from Babson, but have not become an author – in large part due to the fact that my bipolar disorder has led me to various business failures, and made it difficult for me to deal with people and companies in large, organized, bureaucratic settings. I need to do my own thing 🙂 Thank you for your help, Peterremyalexanderii@gmail.com

    • Hi Peter. That’s impressive, what a cool project! This study is still in its preparation phases, but please check back on the blog later to learn more. I should also mention that it’s our partners at the Dr. Woolley’s BAND Lab conducting the study, not us. You can also check on their website, which I imagine they will update with more information as it’s available! https://woolleylab.ucsf.edu/

  6. Because of the magical effects like relaxation, calmness, recreational and medical effects of this magic mushroom brings, no doubt that this magic mushroom or psychedelic mushrooms can treat mental illness like bipolar disorder.

  7. I have bipolar 1. I dont take medicine. Never have for any length of time. I had a period in my 30s I was manic once a year. Always worked and supported my family. Quick trips to the hospital and back to work. Since amicably divorced. Cant smoke pot because of work. Tired of drinking 5 beers every night to relax. Working 60 hr weeks, and no mania for 3 years. I always wanted to try mushrooms but friends at the time told me not too because of my illness. Anyway, they dont test for mushrooms at work, will I “go round the bend” if i try them? I would love to get a different perspective.

    • Hello! Right now, it’s hard to provide information on this. Questions like yours are what this study hopes to address! As our network member Emma said during our Bipolar Reddit AMA:
      “The question of whether psychedelics can be used therapeutically is one that the research is starting to look at, but unfortunately there has not been enough work done in this area to be able to weigh in on the benefits and risks for bipolar disorder. I expect we will be seeing a lot more large scale studies on this topic in the future.”

  8. Will you only be testing bipolar II? My partner is BPI, never episodes of depression, always hypomanic (which is a state he is addicted to in my opinion) with two documented manic episodes, but more likely it’s been at least 4 since I have known him over 9 years..two episodes induced by drugs and being sleep deprived. (I was able to talk him out of one episode induced by 5 grams of mushrooms, which is not a drug he normally takes) over 5 hours during covid we didn’t want to go to hospital. But symptoms existed before any substance use..he has childhood trauma and addiction issues. He won’t medicate. I am at a loss. He needs a reset.

  9. Hello I have used mdma along with shrooms it was pleasant and relaxing but it was in small doses. I’m curious to know what you find in your study’s..

    • Hi Wendy! Thanks for messaging. If you live with bipolar disorder, it sounds like you’d be eligible to participate in the survey when it’s ready. We’ll be making the recruitment announcement sometime in the fall if you’re interested. Take care!

  10. My wife and I have been bringing my son to doctors and a few mental health facilities for the last four years, before only seeming to make a little progress in the last six to eight months. He been diagnosed schizophrenic, schizoaffective, and the most recent biopolar with a touch of schizoaffective if that makes any sense. We are sooooo drained, tired and left in awe/disgust/disappointment with this psychological rollercoaster he mainly/we’ve been on the last few years. He was a kid taking dual credit college class and graduating with honors and on his way to college before his first mental break the summer right before he would have started his first semester of college. Yet, he had his first mental health facility placement that caused him to miss his first semester of college. However, this psylocibin use for mental illness topic I just saw on 60 minutes has only highten my interest in there being hope for my son leading a normal life again without more psychotic meds or possible hospital stays. We’re in the Fort Worth, TX area near Dallas and would love to know more about your upcoming studies in this area of mental health treatment this Sept or October 2020. May God bless your work and effort in this field of study!

    • Hi Shawn. I’m so sorry to hear of your son’s difficulties with his mental health. Yes, please check back in the fall to learn more. Maybe some of these resources could help:

      As for the psilocybin study, I’m not sure what the recruitment requirements will be when they’re out. I hope some of these resources can help. Take care!

  11. Hello. I was curious if you are accepting new candidates for this. My better half suffers from bipolar type 2 and some early onset childhood trauma. Depression from losing her husband of 12 Years. I’m hoping maybe this could be a light in the dark the magic answer if you will. She currently takes medications prescribed from a psychiatrist. We would be interested if she could get some real benefits from studying.

    • Hi Sean. We’ll be making a recruitment announcement for the survey in the fall, depending on when the study is ready. As for the trials, I’m not sure what the requirements will be. You can check back at this blog, or contact Dr. Woolley’s lab to find out more: bandlab@ucsf.edu
      We also shared some resources in the comments above that might be of interest to you and your partner.
      Take care!

  12. I am interested in participating in your study. I have bipolar ll. I suffer from treatment resistant depression. I have episodes of mania and depression approximately every two years. My depressive episodes last upwards of 18 months with no relief from antidepressants. My illness has cost me my marriage of 25 years and ended my relationship with my family and friends. I have never used any illegal drugs other than trying marijuana a few times which I didn’t like. I am now on disability. I have financial burdens I’ll never be able to repay due to manic episodes. I feel.im at the end of my road. I open open to trying anything that can improve the quality of my life. Thanks.

  13. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder only 2 years ago but it has had such a negative impact on me my entire adult life, I just hadn’t known what it was that caused it. Approximately 4 to 5 years ago I was being treated with Ketamine to counteract the effects of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy that I had been diagnosed with after a surgery to my right hand. For a month after the treatment (they lasted 8 hours in one sitting) my mood was balanced and everyone around me commented on how well I was being. Again, I hadn’t been diagnosed with BD at this point. Having experimented with Psilocybin in my late teens, I am very excited about this clinical study. It truly opens the mind and allows one to see beyond the typical scope. Since I have had the benefit of experiencing balanced mood from a different, more potent hallucinogenic, I am a believer that Psilocybin can probably be more effective. I wish this study was happening here.

  14. Hello,

    I am diagnosed Bipolar II. I have had many past experiences with phsychedelics, LSD, Shrooms and DMT. I still use Marijuana daily. I lived with this for 40 years before I got help and was diagnosed. My former shrink thinks it is what kept me from going overbored all these years with no meds. I can’t take phsychedelics anymore cause with my meds, Depakote, abilify and remeron they don’t work unless I use an unsafe amount. I want to get off my meds and I am VERY interested in taking part of this trial. I would talk to my doctor about weaning off my meds for the trial ASAP!

  15. The main benefits of microdosing psilocybin on a regular basis report higher levels of creativity, more energy, increased focus, and improved relational skills. Combined, these can positively impact job performance and in some cases help those struggling find a clear career direction and purpose. Other psychological issues that microdosing psilocybin can help with is alleviating mood disorders and anxiety. Medically, it is reported to treat cluster headaches, resulting in extended periods of remission. Lastly, it is known to increase spiritual awareness, attitudes of life, and altruism. Ultimately, microdosing psilocybin results in a more positive life experience when taken at the right dosage.

  16. I have been using weed for my ‘anxiety’ for some months now and I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2. I got scared off of weed, knowing it can induce psychosis. Now that I’m not self-medicating, and not taking the very scary medication I was prescribed, I’m struggling to keep focused and stable. My energy is scattered, sleep is very difficult (even if I’m exhausted during the day) and I have an incredible amount of anxiety especially socially. Regular panic attacks. I have been finding some temporary relief from essential oils but I need something more stabilizing. I have used psychedelics throughout my adult life and I’m looking to try LSD soon. I have also been researching how to microdose mushrooms, but I’m hesitant to experiment too much since I’m hypomanic.

  17. Super excited for this study! Much needed thank you.

    As someone who is diagnosed with Bipolar & General Anxiety.. Taking different pills daily wasn’t helping me only making me numb .

    I weaned off completely and then dove right into , weed (hybrid or indica ), Ayahuasca, Bufo , and micro dosing on Golden Teacher . Where am I today? A work in progress but definitely better then I was before. Not numb , not taking lots of pills and finally able to find joy in life.

    I have had Neurofeed back done for Brain mapping before and after taking Earth . medicines .. are there changes ? Yes , only that I am still learning how my mind works and naturally rewiring my brain .

    This study I am sure will give a deep insight on how much it helps .

  18. Hi, I just came across this study and I do have Bipolar 2. I was just diagnosed this past year although I knew I had it for the longest time. I have tripped twice from magic mushrooms and I found them to be enlightening. I came out with great intentions and fixed some problems I was dealing with mentally. I am very interested to participate in this study. I have done a lot of research with the possible negative aspects of psychedelics with Bipolar disorder but quite frankly I have felt the opposite. I deal with hypomania and severe depression and I feel as if my meds don’t do a great job since I still struggle with everyday thoughts. I would love to participate in this study

  19. I have been using psilocybin to treat my bipolar for the last 2 yrs or so. I am a vet with 16 yrs of service, multiple combat deployments, PTSD, destroyed marriages, and psilocybin is probably the only reason I am still here.
    The psilocybin pulled me out of my BPD 2 depressive states into a quasi BPD 1 state. I use CBD/THC to deal with the anxiety that comes from the constant state of “go” that I am in now. Which I gladly take over being depressed all of the time.
    I was taking 5g every 2 weeks, but have since tapered back to once a month to see if there is any difference, so far so good. So far my major concern is the dopamine (anxiety) issues and am considering iboga to deal with that mechanism.
    I believe psilocybin has a place for BPD treatment, but only if the patient knows their cycles and can read what their body is telling them.

  20. My name is Mandy and I am bipolar 1 with extreme and addictive behaviors. I also have PTSD and OCD. I have suffered alot of trama from childhood on. I have chronic pain along with all of this. I also can’t seem to have a relationship with anyone anymore. I would love to be in a study. I would trade just about anything for my bipolar. Please help

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