Psilocybin: What you need to know
Psilocybin is in the process of being legalized in many countries. Where does it come from and what is its therapeutic potential? We tell you everything.
Psilocybin could be reprogrammed soon according to an announcement by Boris Johnson, thereby legalizing its medical use. This policy shift would place the UK alongside a number of other jurisdictions around the world that have legalized or are considering legalizing the substance; however, there are many who may not have heard of the psilocybin or its potential health benefits and we tell you all.
What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance found in a small number of mushrooms, often called “magic mushrooms”. These mushrooms have become popular because they are widely associated with recreational drug use, hippie culture, and anti-establishment groups. There is comparatively little awareness of the health and therapeutic potential of the substance.
What is a psychedelic?
Psychedelics are a class of hallucinogenic drugs capable of triggering alternate or non-ordinary states of consciousness. These experiences can involve hallucinations, including psychological, visual, and auditory changes, and can lead to significant changes in perception. Psychedelic experiences are triggered by the drug’s interaction with receptors in our brain and body. Psilocybin also mimics the effects of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of love and happiness.
Drugs/psychedelics such as psylocybin are often produced naturally in plants, animals and fungi: DMT is found in a number of plants and animals, including species in the pea and nutmeg families and a number of toads, fish and frogs; LSD is found in a type of fungus that infects rye and other grains.
The therapeutic potential of psilocybin
Medical researchers have studied the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for decades, and indigenous societies in North and South America and Asia have used psychedelics for spiritual and ritual purposes for millennia. There is some evidence that psychedelics, including psylocybin, can be helpful in treating a number of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Despite promising discoveries made in the mid-20th century, psilocybin research was halted relatively early due to social and political responses to the popularity of ‘hippie’ culture in the 1960s and 1970s that was associated with the use of psychedelics. The introduction of the Controlled Substances Act in the United States in 1970 was a disaster for psychedelic research, as substances such as ketamine, LSD, and psylocybin were declared illegal at the federal level.
The New Wave of Psilocybin Research
The turn of the millennium brought with it a new wave of psychedelic research as governments continued to slowly ease restrictions on substances. Over the past 20 to 30 years, research studies into the potential of psilocybin have increased dramatically.
A recent study published in 2020 demonstrated the potential of psylocybin in the treatment of major depressive disorder. The study found that 71% of participants who used the psychedelic preparation showed a reduction of more than 50% in symptoms after four weeks of treatment. Half of the participants also went into remission.
A number of high-level research facilities, including King’s College London, have carried out or are in the process of carrying out studies on psilocybin. These include research on the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin in patients with treatment-resistant depression, and its effects on cognitive function.
The real problem with this potential legalization is that on the one hand, the jackpot will go to Big Pharma. Thus, the procedures and authorizations will be so extensive that only companies capable of spending tens of millions of dollars will be able to market these “magic pills”. In addition, Big Pharma’s history with the opioid crisis in the United States makes us wary of it like the plague.
As a reminder, Big Pharma has deliberately encouraged doctors and their salespeople to prescribe maximum doses to the poorest patients, doing a heavy job. This has left them into a lifelong addiction and it is estimated that opioids cause 70,000 deaths per year in the United States. From a political point of view, it is also a way to “stupefy” the population as if we weren’t already crumbling under antidepressants and analgesics! In short, this legalization is not necessarily a good thing.