Psilocybin Benefits Psilocybin, the naturally occurring psychoactive substance found most commonly in so-called “magic” mushrooms, is illegal in the United States and most other western countries. However, the past decade has seen a marked increase in medical research concerning this psychedelic. To say that the results of these studies have been promising would actually be an understatement—medical professionals are quickly and conclusively finding that psilocybin has many therapeutic applications. That’s why today we’re going to take a closer look at the state of this research, the benefits that have been uncovered, and how psilocybin may eventually become widely accepted as a legitimate therapeutic aid. It’s worth noting that psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in the United States and many other countries, however, psilocybin mushroom spores are not. That’s why we can provide you with the highest quality magic mushroom spores here at Quality Spores—for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. If you’d like to learn more about the legal status of psilocybin and Psilocybe cubensis mushroom spores, please read our pages on the topic: Why Are Magic Mushroom Spores Legal? and Are Magic Mushroom Spores Legal in My State? To say that the results of these studies have been promising would actually be an understatement—medical professionals are quickly and conclusively finding that psilocybin has many therapeutic applications. Let’s begin by developing an understanding of what psilocybin actually is. Then we’ll take a quick look at its history in medicinal and religious practices, and then we’ll discuss some of the benefits of this exciting substance, including why researchers believe it can help with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), addiction, and more. What Exactly IS Psilocybin, and Where Does it Come From? Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound from the tryptamine grouping. It’s most commonly known for its presence in over 100 species of mushroom, particularly Psilocybe cubensis, but also in the Conocybe and Paneolus mushrooms, among others. These species are often referred to as magic mushrooms. The “magic” in this case is most certainly psilocybin, as when ingested the compound has a variety of effects ranging from a sense of peaceful calm to hallucinations and what many consider to be spiritual awakenings. For this reason, psilocybin has long been used in traditional medicines and religious rituals. Psilocybin Mushrooms Have a Long History of Use As a Medicine and Entheogen An entheogen is a psychoactive substance used for the purpose of undergoing a spiritual, religious, or mystical experience, often administered or ingested by an experienced shaman or other religious leader. It is for these spiritual purposes that psilocybin mushrooms are thought to have been used throughout many thousands of years of human history—perhaps even 11,000 years and beyond. It is for these spiritual purposes that psilocybin mushrooms are thought to have been used throughout many thousands of years of human history—perhaps even 11,000 years and beyond. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of psilocybin mushrooms and the special relationships humans have shared with them throughout the ages, please take a look at our page Mushrooms and Humanity or download a free copy of our special report Amateur Microscopy: Mushrooms, Psilocybin, and YOU. In those resources, you’ll learn about the “Stoned Ape” theory and the possible influence psilocybin had in human evolution, the ancient history of the different cultures around the world who undoubtedly had spiritual and medicinal practices which heavily featured psilocybin mushrooms, and finally, the more modern history of psychedelics. Let’s continue with examining psilocybin research in the past century, leading up to where we are today: Early Psilocybin Research In the 60s – and Why it More-or-Less Ended There For Nearly 30 Years As you’ll learn in Mushrooms and Humanity, one of the leading figures in the early days of psilocybin research was the psychologist and former Harvard professor Dr. Timothy Leary. He and his team pioneered much of the early western understanding of psilocybin, particularly during the Harvard Psilocybin Project, a series of experiments that spanned roughly two years from 1960 to 1962. During these experiments, much of the potential for psilocybin was uncovered, particularly as a means of reducing recidivism in convicted criminals (the rate at which convicts would re-offend and return to prison within six months). Other psychological benefits were uncovered in addition to the notable the spiritual “awakening” potential of the compound during the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself.― Timothy Leary Unfortunately, these experiments draw the attention and eventual ire of the Harvard administrating staff, which resulted in Leary’s dismissal and likely paving the way for governmental action. Just a few short years later in 1968, psilocybin was made federally illegal in the United States. In 1971, the United Nations demanded the prohibition of psilocybin by member countries, which is why to this day most countries have strict laws against the possession, cultivation, or sale of Psilocybe cubensis and specifically psilocybin. If you’d like to learn more about the legal status of psilocybin and why some activists are hopeful that the future may see further decriminalization and perhaps even legalization, please read our page Are Magic Mushroom Spores Legal in My State? You’ll note the important distinction between mushrooms and spores—psilocybin spores are legal in most of the United States, because they don’t contain psilocybin. To learn the difference between mushrooms, mycelium, and spores, read our page about Mushroom Spores and Microscopy Research. Psilocybin Research in the 90s: Paving the Way for Modern Clinical Studies Dr. Franz Vollenweider After a long period of little to no research, psilocybin research slowly, cautiously began again during the mid to late 1990s. Notably, the director of Neurophsychopharmacology—yes, that’s a thing—at the University of Zurich, Dr. Franz Vollenweider, began conducting studies with small groups of human participants in an effort to better understand the neurological mechanisms of psilocybin. At the time of this writing, Dr. Vollenweider’s work continues to explore the possible benefits psilocybin may offer to people with addictions and, crucially, mood disorders and distress for cancer patients. Other small studies were scattered throughout the 90s, but it wasn’t until 2006 that psychopharmacologist Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology which discussed the ability of psilocybin to engender spiritual experiences in participants—with a stunning two-thirds of participants describing their experience with psilocybin as one of the most meaningful experiences they had ever had. Since Griffiths’ study in 2006, Johns Hopkins has participated in a number of other studies involving psilocybin, some of which we’ll be examining below. Let’s take a look at some of the more specific benefits of psilocybin as has been uncovered in more modern studies, most of which have taken place in the past 10 to 15 years. We’ll start with one that we mentioned above that tends to surprise most people: psilocybin may be an effective therapeutic in treating addiction. Psilocybin Shows Great Promise as an Effective Treatment for Addiciton One of the most exciting areas of research involving psilocybin concerns its potential as a treatment for patients with addiction. Roland Griffiths, mentioned above for his work at Johns Hopkins, conducted a study in 2014 which studied the effectiveness of nicotine-addicted patients. After providing patients with “two or three” doses of psilocybin during cognitive behavior therapy, Roland and his team found that an amazing 80% of patients were able to abstain from smoking for at least six months when researchers checked back in with them. The team checked up on the patients who were able to successfully abstain from smoking for a six month period again after two and a half years. 60% of the participants were smoke-free at the time. These results are particularly impressive when you compare them to the performance of traditional smoking cessation treatments, which tend to yield only a 30-40% rate of cessation after six months. In other words, patients treated with psilocybin in the Johns Hopkins study were twice as likely to quit smoking as a result of the treatment. It’s not just nicotine either—other studies have been conducted with regard to the effectiveness of psilocybin in treating addiction for alcohol and cocaine, all of which seem to indicate that the compound may be a highly effective treatment, superior to current traditional treatments. Some researchers, like psychiatrist Kelley O’Donnell, MD, PhD, are hopeful that their work may lead to a reclassification of psilocybin down to a schedule IV substance (down from a schedule I, where it is at the time of this writing). Psilocybin Improves Subjective Well-Being, Empathy, and May Treat a Variety of Mood Disorders A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs shows further evidence that psilocybin can provide therapeutic benefits in treating anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other benefits such as enhancing empathy for others and increasing one’s subjective well-being. Interestingly, these benefits can be measured for up to a full week after psilocybin has been administered. For example, the study examined the effects of psilocybin on creativity and problem-solving. Psychiatrists classify creative thinking in two categories: convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking refers to a person’s ability to come up with a single solution to a problem. Divergent thinking is similar, but describes a person’s ability to come up with a variety of different solutions or answers to the problem at hand. It was found that patients who had been given psilocybin experienced a nearly immediate improvement in convergent thinking, particularly on the day after taking psilocybin. Their convergent thinking capabilities were unaffected at first—but a week later after their divergent thinking abilities returned to baseline, their convergent thinking was strengthened. The reason researchers are so interested in these effects are because they might represent significant improvements in, say, the benefits of therapy: if patients can start thinking differently and approaching their life strategies in a new way, the therapy may prove to be more effective. These psilocybin benefits are thanks to the compound’s ability to manipulate the reactivity of the brain region responsible for mood—the amygdala—and even moderate doses can result in improved self-assessed feelings of well-being (in other words, how happy or generally content a person feels). As it turns out, this is especially important for a specific class of patients: those with cancer. Psilocybin May Help Advanced-Stage Cancer Patients Treat Depression, Anxiety, and General Distress One might argue that this is among the most important aspects of modern psilocybin research: studies have shown that the compound may substantially improve overall mood and well-being for patients with advanced-stage cancer. Patients who are facing their own mortality (in some cases imminent) are understandably prone to depression, anxiety, and overall distress. These symptoms can in some cases even exacerbate their existing conditions, making a bad situation worse. However, randomized, double-blind studies have shown that even low doses of psilocybin can improve mood disorders in measurable, statistically relevant ways. For example, in this study, 51 cancer patients were administered psilocybin. After six months, researchers followed up. They discovered that 80% of patients experienced substantially reduced depression and anxiety. When asked why they thought they had improved so much, patients reported improved mood, relationships, and spirituality. This, as you might have already noted, lines up quite accurately with some of the other studies we’ve discussed here today. Psilocybin proponents are hopeful that the rapidly growing body of work concerning the compound’s efficacy as a treatment for so many different mood and behavioral disorders will result in reformed opinions about the controversial psychedelic. If it isn’t legalized, advocates hope that at least it’s therapeutic benefits can be explored and utilized for those who need it the most. Interested in Studying Psilocybin Mushroom Spores For Yourself? Here’s How to Start While growing psilocybin mushrooms is illegal, amateur microscopists across the country regularly enjoy studying psilocybin spores. Since spores don’t contain psilocybin or psilocin, they’re legal in most of the United States—and they present fascinating research opportunities for anyone interested in learning! To get started on your very own amateur microscopy or spore taxonomy adventure, we recommend reading our page Mushroom Spores & Microscopy Research or diving right into this rewarding hobby and ordering psilocybin mushroom spores online right here at Quality Spores.