Research helps provide a scientific framework for the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings

A new paper from a research team led by Oregon State University provides a scientific framework to help shape the rollout of a program in Oregon that will legally allow the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

Oregon voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to allow the use of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in some magic mushrooms, in therapeutic settings, becoming the first state to do so. Preliminary data from clinical trials has shown that psilocybin has the potential to treat mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

The state created an advisory council to recommend how to roll out a safe and fair system for the use of psilocybin. The Oregon Health Authority in February released draft rules developed by the advisory board. They should be finalized next year.

Jessie Uehling, a mycologist at Oregon State University who studies fungi and their applications to benefit humanity, was appointed last year by Governor Kate Brown to the advisory board. His involvement with the board made him aware of the need for the article recently published in the journal Fungal biology.

“There was no summary of all the information about psilocybin that an entity like the advisory board or any other group at the state or federal level would need to make science-informed decisions,” said Uehling, a professor. assistant who has a doctorate in genetics and genomics and a master’s degree in mycology.

She, along with researchers in Mexico and several universities in the United States, set out to change that. The article they just published provides an overview of the biology, diversity, and history of psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

The authors point out that there are hundreds of fungal species belonging to at least seven genera capable of producing psilocybin. Additionally, they discuss the number of psilocybin-producing mushrooms that have deadly poisonous lookalikes growing in similar locations in natural habitats.

They also focus on how Indigenous peoples around the world have historically used the compound for sacred traditions, in part because they say these cross-disciplinary ideas need to be published, cited, and publicly available.

While indirect evidence of magic mushroom rituals dates back thousands of years in North Africa and Spain; its use, for hundreds of years, still persists in Mexico. Rules governing how these mushrooms are used among Mexican indigenous groups have resulted in safe consumption for centuries, the researchers note. These rules include being guided by an elder or shaman, not mixing alcohol, medicine or drugs, and discouraging travel for a week after the ceremony.

“These mushrooms and their traditions constitute a unique biocultural heritage whose use by Western society must be based on their respect and conservation,” said Roberto Garibay-Orijel, researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and co-author of the item.

He said it was important for the document to highlight that mushroom species found only in Mexico and strains from Mexico’s indigenous territories are protected by the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement that prohibits their use. for commercial purposes without the consent of their ancestral owners. .

Recent Western medical trials on psilocybin have been designed to mirror the guided experience used by Indigenous groups. Trials confirmed the importance of preparation and set-up when using psilocybin-producing mushrooms.

There are currently over 60 clinical trials of psilocybin overseen by the National Institutes of Health. Preliminary data suggest that psilocybin therapies are effective in treating major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, smoking cessation, and alcoholism.

Results of psilocybin ingestion outside of clinical trials have shown increased connection to nature, increased creativity, greater enjoyment of music, and increased positive mood.

Meanwhile, cities across the United States are decriminalizing psilocybin, and Washington is considering a move similar to Oregon’s that would legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

“Society is having this moment right now where mushrooms are appreciated for being really cool,” Uehling said. “But they’re also very powerful and some can be deadly. So we really need to understand them better through scientific research and make safety our first priority.”

The other co-authors of the article are Ray Van Court, Michele Wiseman and Kevin Amses, Oregon State; Kyle Meyer and Daniel Ballhorn, Portland State University; Jason Slot, Ohio State University; and Bryn Dentinger, University of Utah.

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

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