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“Magic Mushrooms,” an organic species of hallucinogenic-fungi containing psilocybin as the main psychoactive ingredient, are making headway into mainstream medical research.
In late 2018 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted “breakthrough therapy” designation to a study into psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
“Psilocybin may be giving [patients] the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and…imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy,” Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, director of psychedelic research at the Imperial College of London and lead author on the FDA approved study, said in a statement.
Psychedelic-assisted therapy has seen something of a renewed scientific interest in the past decade, despite the federal government’s Schedule I classification of the drugs, claiming there’s no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Public perception of psychedelics, especially psilocybin, has evolved as well, to the point that several states are considering decriminalization or legalization of “magic mushrooms.”
Psilocybin-assisted therapy is still largely experimental and conducted under the supervision of medical professionals.
Self-medicating with psilocybin is highly discouraged because of the drug’s powerful interactions that can lead to a “bad trip,” causing intense anxiety and panic, the opposite of what researchers are attempting to do.
What are the Psychedelic Effects of Magic Mushrooms?
- An altered sense of time and reality
- Changes in auditory, visual and tactile senses
- Vomiting, nausea, drowsiness and lack of coordination sometimes occur, especially with psilocybin mushrooms grown in a less than sterile environment
- Users experiences are highly dependent on their environmental setting, which can lead to a positive or deeply negative “trip”
- The “high” or psychedelic effects of the substance can last from around three to eight hours, depending on dosage, the quality of the mushrooms and a person’s tolerance
An estimated 16 million people in the United States live with depression and about one-third of that population suffers from treatment-resistant depression, according to data published by the National Institutes of Health.
How Does Psilocybin Treatment Therapy Work?
With psilocybin therapy treatment, a therapist or “guide” creates a safe, tightly controlled environment and prepares a patient for what they may experience during the psychedelic session. Patients are carefully monitored throughout each session.
Afterwards, they process and contextualize the event, discussing their thoughts and feelings about the experience.
Dr. Harris, who is a pioneer in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy, says patients tend to use computer analogies to express how they feel after therapy sessions, using phrases such as feeling “rebooted” or that their brain feels “defragged.”
“The ‘loosening of cognition’ that results…is especially helpful to people suffering from the varieties of mental stuckness, including depression, addiction, anxiety and obsession,” Michael Pollan, a New York Times Contributor, writes about Dr. Harris’ work.
Some specialists think this type of therapy might create new positive connections in the brain while turning off negative connections that could be causing depression in the individual.
Which States Might Legalize Psilocybin Mushrooms for Therapy?
As research into psilocybin-assisted therapy advances, movements in Colorado and Oregon are hoping to get “magic mushrooms” legalized in some form or fashion.
Advocates in Denver have collected enough signatures for a May 2019 vote on decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms in the city. If it passes, the sale and consumption of “shrooms” would still be illegal, though it would no longer be a law enforcement priority.
In Oregon, the psilocybin campaign is geared more toward medicinal use.
“The intent of the 2020 Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon is to advance a breakthrough therapeutic model currently being perfected in research settings at top universities around the world,” the authors of the ballot initiative said.
If passed, it will be legal in the state for licensed therapists to produce, possess and administer psilocybin mushrooms.
There is still a long way to go until we have large enough body of evidence to know how well psilocybin-assisted treatment therapy will work, or if it will possibly replace more conventional medication treatments.
But if it works, many people could find relief from an unexpected natural resource instead of a synthetically manufactured pill.