How ‘magic mushrooms’ could follow in cannabis’ footsteps

Magic mushrooms is increasing in the states and contemplating legislation to enhance medication research and access.

Marijuana, it turns out, is a gateway drug for America’s statehouses.

magic mushrooms

The same strategy that helped Americans not only decriminalize but also embrace cannabis politically over the last decade is now being used to decriminalize or legalize hallucinogenic compounds like “magic mushrooms.” And, similar to changing attitudes about marijuana usage, new data and personal tales from military veterans are persuading some lawmakers to reconsider long-held prohibitions on these substances.

What was once considered a taboo subject, is now the subject of measures introduced by Republicans and Democrats in over a dozen states. They range from initiatives that would enable adults to ingest psychedelics under supervision to proposals to explore the medical advantages of the drugs.

“It’s gone viral and aroused an interest nationwide,” said Jesse Salomon, a Democratic state senator from Washington who is supporting a bill that would allow adults over 21 to consume psilocybin under supervision. “I had no idea there were so many people on here who shared my interests on psilocybin-mushrooms.”

In 2020, Oregon voters approved a ballot proposal legalizing and regulating psilocybin therapy, as well as another that decriminalized drug possession more broadly. Voters in cities like Denver, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. have also resisted implementing laws prohibiting the use of magic mushrooms and other plants containing hallucinogenic chemicals. These concepts have now extended throughout a politically diverse group of states, including Utah, Missouri, Connecticut, New Jersey, Texas, and California. magic mushrooms

The renewed interest for relaxing psychedelic regulations has yet to gain traction with federal lawmakers in Congress or the executive branch. Most psychedelics, including psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA, are classed as Schedule I narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act, which means they’re extremely addictive and have no medical uses.

magic mushrooms, psilocybin-mushrooms

There are, nevertheless, some evidence of increased interest: The National Institute on Drug Abuse held a session on “psychedelics as therapies” in January, and it gave a $4 million grant to study the effects of psilocybin on cigarette addiction last year. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has also tried to make it easier to do psychedelic research, but lawmakers have rejected her efforts.

what to know about psychedelics magic mushrooms

A comparable “psychedelic renaissance” occurred in the United States previously. Between 1950 and 1961, more than 1,000 scientific articles were published on LSD, and psychiatrists in North America pioneered its therapeutic usage in the early 1950s.

However, the drug became politicized and vilified as a hazardous aspect of the counterculture in the 1960s, restricting research and driving psychedelics underground for decades.

What was once the domain of Haight-Ashbury acid heads has now evolved into a nootropic tool favored by Silicon Valley tech bros and a potentially profitable commercial opportunity for investors. Popular writers like Michael Pollan and Ayelet Waldman have written about their own experiences with these substances.

Researchers at NYU and Johns Hopkins were keen to follow up where others had left off, developing therapeutic research and training programs at a time when mental health is receiving more attention.

In an interview, Oklahoma state Rep. Daniel Pae, a Republican who filed legislation this year to promote psilocybin research, said about magic mushrooms, “In a post-pandemic America… we have to treat the mental health epidemic as wisely as we can with all the alternatives on the table.”

Pae described the bipartisan support for his plan, which was approved by the House earlier last month, as “humbling.” He was motivated by a desire to aid veterans and was inspired by similar legislation passed in Texas last year. Pae represents a district in the United States.

Republican lawmakers in Maryland, Utah, and Missouri have all introduced research proposals similar to Pae’s.

Classic psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD have a different effect on the brain than other substances like MDMA. However, fMRI imaging of persons under the influence of these medicines shows that they have an effect on the brain’s “default mode network,” which connects various brain regions that appear to be involved in one’s sense of self and idea of others. Various studies provide insight into the therapeutic potential of these drugs.

Psychedelic chemicals, like cannabis, aren’t without risk. There have been reports (though few) of persons becoming addicted to these substances or even dying as a result of their use.

Proponents will claim that controlling the use of these medications in a therapeutic environment will help to prevent harm. However, that model has its own set of risks: The abuses that can occur in psychedelic therapy, even during federally sanctioned clinical trials, were probed by Cover Story, a New York Magazine audio series. Many of these substances can make people who are using them vulnerable to their therapists or guides abusing and manipulating them.

While academics focus on the benefits of psychedelic magic mushrooms therapy, there has been little research into how to aid people who have a negative experience while taking these drugs – a sizable minority, according to the statistics.

“This is a gap in the research,” said Jules Evans, an honorary research fellow at Queen Mary University of London who is seeking money to perform empirical research on how to assist people who are on challenging trips. “Imagine if NASA spent all of its resources researching how to get people into space but none on how to get them back down.”

Evans is careful to point out that he favors decriminalizing psychedelics and research in the hopes of enabling legal access to these substances in the future. However, he is afraid that the industry is not yet mature enough to fully understand the hazards, and he is concerned that discussing the concerns could jeopardize efforts in removing the stigma around such treatments.

“You realize you’re taking a chance when you travel to the Amazon jungle,” Evans remarked. “Patients seeking aid through the medicalized path should be aware of the hazards.”

Both MDMA, a psychoactive substance akin to stimulants and hallucinogens, and psilocybin have recently been granted breakthrough treatment classification by the FDA, a distinction that honors the medications’ promising early clinical studies for treating serious diseases.

The marijuana advocacy sphere intersects with the groups behind this political drive. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic magic mushrooms Studies, and the Drug Policy Alliance have all backed initiatives to legalize drugs other than marijuana.

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