Psilocybin can reduce the pain of social exclusion

It hurts to be left out, but for most people, social exclusion doesn’t become pathological. For people with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, though, it can be a huge problem, worsening symptoms and creating a feedback loop of negativity.

Enter psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms. A small new study with healthy volunteers shows that a low dose of psilocybin can reduce the distress caused by mild social exclusion and lessens activity in the area of the brain associated with this emotion.

“Usually, social exclusion and isolation is perceived as extremely stressful and painful,” says Katrin Preller, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich and the first author of a study describing the findings published April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Psilocybin now seems to reduce this emotional response to social exclusion by attenuating activity in associated brain areas,” thus making the experience “less emotionally painful for the participants.”

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