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Medical Magic Mushrooms: Where Do We Stand in 2020?

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By: burgundy bug

A group of “magic mushrooms.”

Source: Adobe Stock

Psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound derived from Psilocybe mushrooms, had once been revered for its medical breakthroughs in the psychology community throughout the 1960s, according to a 2017 Neuropsychopharmacology review.

After decades of clinical research on psilocybin going dormant due to strict government regulations, the compound appears to be making a comeback in western medicine with over 25 active or recruiting clinical psilocybin trials listed on the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Could 2020 be the widespread revival of psilocybin research, possibly leading to a medical industry that models the medical marijuana industry?

A (Very) Brief History of Psilocybin Research

“Psychedelic substances have been present in nature and used by many cultures for hundreds, if not thousands of years (carvings found in South America suggest that hallucinogenic mushrooms have been used there since before 1000 B.C.).

…The earliest scientific research done on these fascinating chemicals was the isolation of the main psychoactive alkaloid found in the peyote cactus by Heffter in 1896, which he named ‘mescal.'”

Human Psychedelic Research: A Historical And Sociological Analysis | Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Albert Hoffman first identified psilocybin in “magic mushrooms” in 1958, says the 2017 Neuropsychopharmacology review.

“Plant-based psychedelics, such as psilocybin, have an ancient history of medicinal use,” the review explains. “After the first English language report on LSD in 1950, psychedelics enjoyed a short-lived relationship with psychology and psychiatry.”

During the first wave of psychedelic research, compounds such as psilocybin and LSD had been studied for their potential to treat substance use and mood disorders.

However, the rise of the counter-culture movement lead to strict government regulations in 1965 and slammed the breaks on clinical psychedelic research, says a 1999 Cambridge University Study.

Then, the National Institute of Mental Health created the Division of Narcotics Addiction and Drug Abuse which defined the five drug schedules still in place today.

Psychedelics found themselves in Schedule I, the category defined as being unsafe with high potential for abuse and no medical use.

Yet, the research didn’t stop altogether. Instead, the substances were tested on animals throughout the ’70s and ’80s while underground studies on humans were taking place simultaneously.

For a more indepth look on the history of psychedelic research, we recommend reading “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan.

** Note: The link above is an affiliate link.

Source: Amazon

The Revival of Psychedelic Research

Psychedelic Research in the ’90s

“Human psychedelic research fell into a 25-year hiatus before scientists in Germany, the United States, and Switzerland began its revival.”

The Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelic Drugs: Past, Present, and Future | Neuropsychopharmacology

During the 1990s, researchers began diving back into research on psilocybin and LSD.

Soon thereafter, the Heffter Research Institute launched to help design, review, and fund studies on psilocybin throughout the United States and Europe in 1993, their website details.

“Our research has explored psilocybin for the treatment of cancer-related distress and addiction, for understanding the relationship between the psychedelic experience and spirituality, and for basic science research into the physiology of brain activity, cognition, and behavior,” the Heffter Research Institute says online. “The Heffter Institute believes that psychedelics have great, unexplored potential that requires independently funded scientific research to find their best uses in medical treatment.”

Then, Amanda Feilding created The Beckley Foundation to advocate for drug policy reform and scientific research on psychoactive substances globally in 1998, states the foundation’s website.

“We collaborate with leading scientific and political institutions worldwide to design and develop ground-breaking research and global policy initiatives,” The Beckley Foundation says online.

In 2000, the Center for Psychedelic & Conscious Research group at John Hopkins was the first to obtain regulatory approval to reinitiate psychedelic research on healthy volunteers in the United States, according to their website.

Read: The U.S. Is Now Home to the Biggest Shroom Research Center in the World

Source: VICE

Since the revival of psychedelic research, preliminary reports have demonstrated safe and positive effects on the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life distress, major depressive disorder, as well as alcohol and nicotine dependence with LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, says the 2017 Neuropsychopharmacology review.

The Future of Psilocybin Research in the United States

Currently, psilocybin is being investigated for the treatment of major depressive disorder, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraines, cluster headaches, alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, and cocaine use, as listed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Moreover, there’s been a political shift in how psilocybin is regarded, as well. In May 2019, voters approved Initiated Ordinance 301 to decriminalize psilocybin in Denver, according to Denver municipal election results.

This ordinance would make the “personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons 21 years of age and older the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority,” says the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative.

Additionally, the Oregon Psilocybin Program Initiative may appear on the ballot in Nov. 2020 if enough signatures are collected.

This initiative would create safe and affordable access to psilocybin therapy to those over the age of 21 who qualify, control and regulate the manufacturing of psilocybin products, and prevent the distribution of psilocybin to those who don’t qualify.

At a national level, a 2017 YouGov poll found 53 percent of all respondents supported medical research of psychedelic substances.

In Conclusion

After decades of being pushed underground, psilocybin is sprouting back up in the clinical research community, posing as a potential treatment option for mood and substance use disorders.

At this rate, it’s reasonable to assume more research on psilocybin and psychedelics as a whole will continue cropping up as they have been since ’90s.

While it’s hard to predict where psilocybin stands politically and if it’ll follow in the footsteps of the medical marijuana industry, the question may be on the ballot sooner than later.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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