As the legalization of cannabis spreads around the world, another mind-altering drug is also trying to follow its tracks – the magic mushrooms.
There have been advocates who state that mushrooms have a medical potential that can be as big as cannabis, especially for treating addiction and depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested the drug as a treatment for depression. They state that it is now in a large-scale clinical trial in North America and Europe.
What are magic mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms, or commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, is a name given to fungi species which contains psilocybin, a compound that has hallucinogenic effects when ingested. There are approximately more than 180 species of mushrooms that have psilocybin, or a derivative of the substance.
Magic mushrooms have become popular as a recreational drug during the 1950s in the West. Thousands of years before, the fungi are being used as a part of religious and spiritual ritual ceremonies in South and Central America.
The psychedelic effects of magic mushrooms can be different from species to species and the season, freshness, or location in which they grew can also be different. Generally, people who consume magic mushrooms can experience visual distortions and mild hallucinations like altered sounds or colors. Some people also experience episodes of high energy, giggling, and euphoria. However, during a “bad trip”, consumers can also experience a feeling of anxiety, paranoia, panic, and nausea.
Why are magic mushrooms illegal?
Magic mushrooms are Schedule I drug, which means that the federal government thinks that it can become a high risk of abuse with no accepted medical benefit. It is illegal across the country, and owning it can be a felony offense. Marijuana is also a Schedule I drug, as well as ecstasy, heroin, and Quaaludes.
Magic mushrooms and essentially every other drug had a bad rap ever since during the hippie days of the ’60s. But researchers from Johns Hopkins University made it into headlines when they recommended that the Food and Drug Administration reclassify magic mushrooms as a Schedule IV drug, like Tramadol and Xanax which have a very low risk for abuse. These researches also reveal that psilocybin can have therapeutic benefits, which can only be discovered with more research.
The effects of Magic Mushrooms
When consumed at low doses, magic mushrooms can alter your sense of perception, overlaying visual perception matched with repetitive geometric shapes, changing colors, and altering how sounds can be perceived. It has hallucinogenic effects which include breathing surfaces, auras around a light, and afterimages of “tracers.” When consumed in higher doses, magic mushrooms can cause distort cognizance of space and time, synesthesia, and can give a sense of melding with the environment. Visual hallucinations can also be possible, but with a rare confusion for reality. Consumption of magic mushrooms can also produce subjective emotional effects that can range from hilarity to increased anxiety. The use of magic mushrooms can also dilate pupils.
The research of magic mushrooms
Some researches have shown that magic mushrooms have the potential to treat a range of behavioral and psychiatric disorders, but this has not been approved yet by the FDA. There is still a lot of ongoing research that tries to support and prove this claim.
Some of the potential indications of magic mushrooms include obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, alcohol addiction, quitting smoking, cluster headaches, cocaine addiction, and end-of-life psychological distress. Some initiatives have popped up to decriminalize magic mushrooms in Colorado, Denver, and Oregon, but according to the experts, it is unlikely to pass. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Psilocybin still remains a Schedule I drug,
The president and the co-founder of the Heffter Research Institute, Dr. George R. Geer explained that they have two missions: first is to do research which can help people understand the brain, the mind, how all that works, and second, to help lessen the suffering with the therapeutic use of psychedelics.
The institute is focused on two areas of psilocybin research: cancer-related psychiatric disorders and addiction. Cancer-related psilocybin therapy is one of the most promising research for the said drug. But since there is a huge number of potential indications for this drug, it is still important to take note that the research can also vary widely from pilot studies to phase 2 or phase 3 approval trials conducted by the FDA.
Depression is one of the most research indications associated with psilocybin therapy. Just like what the Healthline reported, psilocybin therapy had a “breakthrough therapy” designation given by the FDA for treating depression.
Cancer-related psychological distress
According to Dr. Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry, psilocybin had made promising results for the treatment of existential anxiety for those people who are having the end of life stage and who have been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer. Grob has extensively studied how psilocybin can treat anxiety for people with cancer.
A double-blind trial back in 2016 revealed that a single dose of psilocybin can improve the quality of life and can decrease anxiety and depression to people with life-threatening cancer diseases.
Will the FDA approve the use of psilocybin?
Despite all the promising research of the health benefits of psilocybin, there is still no realistic timeline if psilocybin will be approved by the FDA.
Some of the experts state that this substance may be dangerous for some reasons if it is administered incorrectly. Certified therapists and specially trained physicians will only administer this substance and it’s never going to be available on the street where people can buy it.
Psilocybin can affect the cardiovascular system which can lead to an increased in blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. It can also cause permanent and serious psychological problems.
Some are optimistic that this substance may follow the footsteps of MDMA therapy and have an approval within 5 to 10 years, it is still far from clear and is very uncertain.
There is still no realistic timeline for approval and although the research has been very encouraging and positive, there was still not enough research to support this.