The word “shrooms” is often reminiscent of the image of a free spirit dressing up or rebellious students at a smoky party. However, this sacred plant is undergoing a major change in the medical field. Washington is the latest U.S. state to decriminalize psilocybin therapy.
As the drug transitions from psychedelic montages to clinical studies, its unique properties are gaining recognition throughout society. And the main question everyone has in mind: what exactly is psilocybin and what does it do in my doctor’s office?
What is psilocybin?
Aside from being a bite to pronounce, psilocybin (sil-uh-sahy-bin, you’re welcome) is a chemical compound found in certain types of hallucinogenic mushrooms. It is similar to the lysergic acid diethylamide compound, better known as LSD. This may result in a feeling of euphoria and / or hallucinations in the user as a result of the effect of the compound on the central nervous system. In short, it causes users to experience a “journey”. This led to his apparent popularity in the 60s and 70s. However, the reported abuse of this substance resulted in its ban in the late 1970s – the US authorities classified it as an Annex 1 substance, for which “the potential for abuse exceeds their medicinal potential”.
Mushrooms as medicine
However, as the years went by and research into this drug progressed, studies revealed this psilocybin possesses immense healing potential to aid in the treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders. Especially those patients who have proven resistant to treatment; the substance uses serotonin pathways (the happy hormone) in the brain to change the subject’s thought process and perception of reality. This allows for deep introspective, hallucinatory, and even spiritual experiences.
Read more about origin of psilocybin here.
Aside from sounding like Donna Summer’s experiential version of “I Feel Love,” the effects of psilocybin can override common brain connections that can be a source of constant episodes of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Sounds like magic? Here’s how:
The mental state of an individual while on this “journey” allows the brain pathways to connect in different ways as well as create new connections. This bypasses the “default” connections of the brain that tend to trigger harmful episodes. It gives the user a different mental perspective on the thoughts and experiences that would normally trigger. The continuous act of avoiding these “harmful” pathways in the brain and creating new connections can lead to lasting long-term therapeutic results for users.
Co-founder and president Heffter Research Institute is located in New Mexico, Dr. George R. Greer speaks of the subject of psychedelics as a form of therapy: “Our mission is twofold: one is research that helps us understand the mind, the brain, how it all works, and number two, to help reduce suffering through the therapeutic use of psychedelics. “
This is demonstrated by the use of the therapeutic properties of psilocybin to alleviate the existential anxiety that terminal cancer patients often experience. Dr. Ira Byock, a medical officer and palliative care specialist in Providence St. Joseph Health in Washington, D.C., says that the therapeutic use of psilocybin allows for spiritual introspection. During this time, patients can change their perspective regarding their existence.
“What psychedelics do is move the frame out of feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and that life is not worth living to see that we are connected to other people and connected to a universe that has an inherent connection,”
The compound further helps to calm the physical effects that accompany this existential anxiety.
Psilocybin therapy allows patients to feel calm, accepted, and calm.
Studies show that psilocybin can further help treat anxiety and addiction. It has also been researched for eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders because it improves the mood of users. This allows them to distance themselves from the neurotic thoughts that are often associated with the aforementioned disorders; the drug also has a calming effect, which helps to re-stabilize the temperament of the individual. This can also be applied to the symptoms associated with countless addictions, which the fungus can also help.
How will it work?
According to Kelsey Ramsden, the company’s CEO Mind Cure, typical psilocybin-focused therapy in the future may take the following form:
Settling into a comfortable space like a living room, the patient will be administered a dose of psilocybin, and then licensed therapists will guide the user through their experience. This will be achieved by verbal instructions or simple presence during the patient’s experience, Psilocybin can be taken in tablet form, eaten as a dried mushroom, or cooked as tea. A single dose can last up to 6 hours, allowing for weekly progression within that single session.
However, not everyone is ready to embark on a full therapeutic journey. The fungus can also be taken in the form of a micro dose. Taking approximately 0.4 g of dried psilocybin mushrooms (a 10th regular doses for “travel”) can significantly lift the mood of users without the hallucinogenic element of experience, simply leaving them to feel much happier, more creative and calmer. This allows the user to remain fully aware and functioning and reduces the risk of triggering psychosis in individuals, especially those who may have underlying diseases, such as schizophrenia.
Psilocybin is not considered an addictive substance, but microdosing further reduces the chances of addiction because the “journey” it causes is not significant enough for users to constantly chase the high level it has provided.
What can go wrong?
However, like all things in life, psilocybin not all are long and unicorns. Some of the downsides of this fungus are that it can cause side effects like nausea, muscle fatigue, dizziness and feelings of paranoia. Hallucinogens can also cause users to have a “bad trip,” which can be an extremely disturbing experience.
Furthermore, the human body tends to develop a tolerance to repeated drug use, which ultimately makes it ineffective, regardless of dose. Another significant drawback is the fact that the use of hallucinogens in most states is still technically illegal.
A positive move to accept psilocybin therapy
Currently, the use of psilocybin is illegal under federal law, classified as Appendix 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which applies to chemicals and substances that are not accepted for medical use and have a high potential for abuse, such as heroin and LSD.
Recently, however, several U.S. cities and states voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of psilocybin.
It is part of a broader movement to restart psilocybin acceptance, which was among psychedelic drugs that were curtailed – and ultimately banned – after the legendary countercultural excesses of the 1960s and 1970s.
Psilocybin has also been decriminalized in states like Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Chicago, and Washington DC is the latest addition to the list. This means that the persecution of people who possess this hallucinogen is the lowest priority of the police. Although consumption is still technically illegal in these (and most) states, these are progressive milestones in its path.
Which means decriminalization
However, as the therapeutic properties and benefits of this magic mushroom become better known, key health opinion leaders and government policymakers pay tribute to psilocybin. In November 2020, Oregon recently became the first state for the legalization of psilocybin for regulated use in the treatment of unsolvable mental health problems. The first patients will have access in early January 2023.
What is next for psilocybin therapy?
It is clear that psilocybin therapy has enormous potential in the medical world. The FDA has classified it as a form of “breakthrough therapy”. Demand for decriminalization and legalization of drugs continues to spread across countries. Over 100 U.S. cities are participating in discussions about the future of drugs. Many predict that psilocybin will follow in the footsteps of marijuana.
It is therefore not unreasonable to believe that in the next 5 to 8 years we will see a turning point for the future of this mushroom. The journey of psilocybin therapy is not over yet. The future looks promising for those seeking a natural and holistic therapy for difficult conditions.