Once again, Denver, Colorado is at the heart of the U.S. drug debate. Instead of marijuana, though, this time they are debating the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms. Initiative 301 is on the ballot, and if passed, psilocybin mushrooms would become Denver’s lowest law enforcement priority. This wouldn’t exactly legalize shrooms though.
The FDA just approved a new antidepressant, the first of its kind. Unlike other antidepressants, this one is a nasal spray. Esketamine, under the brand name Spravato, is developed by Johnson & Johnson and has been in testing for the past 2 years. The drug has seen remarkable success. This success is interesting because the drug is closely tied to the club drug “Special K.” Related to MDMA, Special K is known as Ecstasy. This marks the first major breakthrough in the treatment of depression since the 1980s.
Ryan Lau | @agorisms
For thousands of years, people have used psychedelics to pursue life-altering experiences. With relatively low risk, these drugs have provided great insight to many. They also have, in smaller doses, helped to improve concentration and mental ability. Recently, LSD microdosing even became the subject of an anonymous public study. Now, information is out about the healing effects of psilocybin mushrooms on depression and anxiety on the terminally ill.
Also known as magic mushrooms, the drug can produce vivid hallucinations in heavy doses, but the overdose and injury risk are both particularly low. As a result, Denver is actually considering decriminalizing the drug, but they are not alone in showing support; a recent study points to a very interesting medical use for psilocybin mushrooms.
Psilocybin Mushrooms and Terminal Cancer
In December of 2016, the Journal of Psychopharmacology published a groundbreaking study on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on terminal cancer patients. It’s fairly common knowledge that those facing a terminal illness have higher rates of depression and anxiety; of course, people with terminal cancer are prone to these effects. But evidence shows that the drug may have a major effect on their condition.
In the study, researchers looked at 51 cancer patients, each of whom had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. A month after getting baseline measurements of depression and anxiety, half of the group received 3 micrograms of psilocybin (less than a microdose, a placebo). The other half consumed 30 micrograms, which is a medically significant quantity.
Five weeks later, the two groups reversed, getting the opposite dose. The researchers also monitored depression and anxiety levels after the first and second trial, as well as six months later. They then published their results from after the first and second session and at the follow-up.
Astonishingly, the drug had a clinically significant effect on the patients. The researchers defined this as depression and/or anxiety decreasing 50% or more from the baseline. For those that received the high dose first, the results were immediate. After the first session, 92% of subjects with depression and 76% of those with anxiety saw a clinical response. For 60% and 52%, respectively, the symptoms were in full remission.
On the other hand, those with the placebo dose did not see these changes. Clinical response rates were 32% and 24%, while remission rates were a paltry 16% and 12%. But once they received their dose the second time, the numbers shot up.
After session 2, the group that then received the high dose (the low-dose group from session 1) saw similar results to the high-dose group from session 1. Their clinical response rates for depression and anxiety were 75% and 83%, while remission rates spiked to 58% and 42%. At the six-month follow-up, the figures only changed marginally.
What Can We Conclude?
All in all, this study strongly suggests that psilocybin mushrooms may be very helpful in treating depression and anxiety in cancer patients. After all, just one dose sent over half of all participants into remission. Of course, the drug is not helpful in treating the diseases themselves. However, it can still change the way that people die, altering their perception of life for the better.
At this time, the biggest obstacle to treatment will almost certainly be governments across the world. In most countries, it is a crime to consume psilocybin mushrooms or other hallucinogenic drugs. Very few allow the practice and those that do have many nuances in the law. For example, psilocybin is illegal in Brazil, but the sale and consumption of mushrooms containing them are not. The United States, along with most countries, has a blanket ban on the substance.
With increasing evidence for medical capability, it is entirely possible that the world will soon see a push to legalize mushrooms. This could play out quite like the drive to legalize marijuana. As stated previously, Denver is already considering the measure. The FDA is also beginning to approve trials for their use. However, there likely will be pushback, particularly from more conservative lawmakers hesitant even to take action on marijuana. The future of psilocybin as a medical treatment is quite unknown, but one thing is clear: the drug has the potential to make a major impact on the world.
By Max Bibeau | United States
Since its first dose in 1943, countless people have used lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for intense, life-changing “trips”. While many studies explain the impacts of these large trips, there is a shocking lack of scientific research on the other side of LSD: microdosing.
LSD microdosing, the practice of taking small amounts of LSD during the day (between 10ug and 20ug), is becoming increasingly common in tech communities like Silicon Valley. Microdosing is said to have a multitude of positive effects. For example, it treats depression and anxiety and increases cognitive ability. However, there has been little to no actual research on LSD microdosing. Therefore, all of these claims are anecdotal, not conclusive.
The Beckley Foundation, working in tandem with Imperial College London, is looking to change that. By crowdsourcing participants around the world, the organizations are creating the most expansive study yet on microdosing.
LSD is still widely illegal. Thus, the study has made it clear that participants will not be sent any substances. Instead, they will need to obtain and handle all doses independently.
LSD Microdosing: How to Participate
To participate in the study, one must be at least 18 years of age, have had prior experience with psychedelics, and be willing to follow the study’s manual in order to ensure accurate data. Given the relatively low barrier to entry, the groups hope that the study will garner many participants around the world.
The study will be self-blinding and placebo-controlled in order to ensure the best results. Participants must create their own doses and placebos and not know which they are taking each day. They also must self-report the results on a daily basis.
While there are obviously many sources of error (impure street LSD, inaccurate self-reporting, difficulty in self-blinding) the study hopes to pave the way for future clinical studies of LSD microdosing. From the study’s page:
“[The study is] neither a conventional clinical trial nor plain personal experimentation. Rather, it is somewhere in between and as such the strength of the resulting evidence will be also somewhere in between.”
Thus, this study will not conclusively prove anything regarding microdosing. Rather, it will provide backing to advocate for future clinical studies. However, given the dramatic lack of information on LSD microdosing, the psychedelic community will likely welcome any research on the practice with open arms.
To sign up to participate in the study, and to receive more information, you can go to the organization’s website HERE.
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By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial
Colorado is popular for its laid-back marijuana laws, and could very soon experience a similar trend with Psilocybin mushrooms, which are often called “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms.”
An organization called Colorado for Psilocybin entered a Denver city building to gain the proper signatures for a movement to relieve penalties on the psychedelic drug, according to CPR.
If the change turns out to be successful, felony charges for those possessing the drug will become nonexistent, and Psilocybin will be marked with the lowest enforcement priority for police.
Anyone caught with more than two ounces of dried mushrooms, or two pounds of uncured “wet” mushrooms, would be subject to a citation: less than $99 for the first offense, increased by increments of $100 for subsequent offenses, and never more than $999 per citation.
Tyler Williams is one of the leaders of the movement. He reports pulling strategies from similar movements for marijuana last year. He went on to say “I’m a big believer in cognitive liberty, and so whatever people decide to consume I think is up to them… I think people should be informed about what they are consuming, and they shouldn’t have to be afraid of going to jail for that.”
The young activist believes in the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual power surrounding the drug, which echoes the activity of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
This would not be the first instance action such as this has been taken, though. Cultivation of the psychedelic is legal in New Mexico. California sought to make a transition away from punishing nonviolent crimes in 2014, and may soon pass a decriminalization measure similar to this one.