Oregon Psilocybin Society (“OPS”) – Psilocybin Mushroom Services

Oregon Psilocybin Society – Two Key Points

On October 20, 2018, the Oregon Psilocybin Society (“OPS”) hosted a meeting about “The Science of Psilocybin” at Taborspace in Portland, Oregon.  The meeting was led by Tom Eckert (co-founder of the OPS) and Carly Berinstein, an “academic-turned-advocate.”

Mr. Eckert explained OPS’s vision for bringing “psilocybin services” to Oregon. He consistently distinguished the OPS’s vision from a conventional pharmaceutical model.  In particular, the OPS’s vision is limited to psilocybin mushrooms as opposed to purified or synthetic psilocybin. See “Taking Pure Psilocybin is Different from Eating Magic Mushrooms.” Additionally, the OPS’s vision contemplates mental health services as opposed to psilocybin products.

Ms. Berinstein gave a presentation, summarizing the state of the art for psilocybin science.  Her presentation highlighted the growing body of scientific evidence showing that psilocybin can be used for quickly and safely treating mood disorders (e.g., depression, PTSD, addiction, compulsion) with long-lasting effects.

1. Oregon Psilocybin Society Promotes Administering Mushrooms NOT Pure or Synthetic Psilocybin 

Mr. Eckert was clear that OPS’s mission was focused on improving access to psilocybin-containing mushrooms NOT purified or synthetic psilocybin.  Mr. Eckert distinguished natural mushrooms (growing naturally in the state of Oregon) from psilocybin formulations or synthetic psilocybin (akin to conventional pharmaceutical products).  This is an important distinction because psychoactive mushrooms contain a combination of multiple psychoactive ingredients in variable concentrations. (Just as natural cannabis provides substantially different pharmacology compared to pure THC, “magic mushrooms” are substantially different from pure psilocybin.)

Notably, all of the promising scientific results presented by Ms. Berinstein pertained to purified psilocybin—not psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

2. Oregon Psilocybin Society Promotes One-time services NOT Everyday products

Mr. Eckert explained that the OPS is solely focused on bringing psilocybin services to Oregon. The proposed psilocybin services would require a participant to engage in three therapeutic phases: Screening; Guided Mushroom Consumption; and Integration.

Both Mr. Eckert and Ms. Berinstein emphasized that a person could benefit from psilocybin therapy “immediately” and completely upon consuming mushrooms, which Mr. Eckert described a “one shot deal.” Mr. Eckert contrasted the OPS’s proposed one-time psilocybin therapy with conventional pharmaceutical approaches, which often require a patient to adopt a longterm pill popping routine.

Mr. Eckert also distanced the OPS’s initiative from “microdosing.” He explained that “microdosing” is more consistent with a pharmaceutical model—longterm pill popping as opposed to a single administration of psilocybin.

Reliable Mainstream Therapeutics Using Inherently Variable Mushrooms?

How will the OPS connect the dots between (A) a growing body of scientific research pertaining to purified psilocybin and (B) psilocybin-containing mushrooms which contain varying amounts of psilocybin as one psychoactive ingredient?

One challenge confronting the OPS will arise from controlling the dose of psilocybin administered.  Psilocybin-containing mushrooms vary substantially in psilocybin concentration.  Presumably, the OPS’s initiative contemplates administering known amounts of psilocybin to the participants. Although there are a variety of methods for minimizing variability on composition and concentration, none of those methods provide the precision and reliability of a manufactured/formulated product.

A second challenge will involve controlling the dose of other psilocybin derivatives administered. Psilocybin-containing mushrooms vary substantially in chemical composition.  Psilocybin is not the only active ingredient in magic mushrooms. The relative concentrations of active ingredients (e.g., psilocybin derivatives) vary considerably between different mushroom species, different samples of the same species, different portions from the same harvest, and even different portions of the same mushroom. Accordingly, different mushrooms can produce substantially different clinical effects— both in the brain and in the periphery. 

Some naturally occurring mushrooms native to the Oregon area may not be the most suitable choice for psilocybin therapy sessions — provided that they often bring about unexplained paralysis lasting 24+ hours after taking them.

For example, the Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens species, native to Oregon, are known to cause “temporary paralysis” as an unwanted side effect.  See Pollan, Michael, The Atlantic, June 4, 2018 (quoting Paul Stamets); See also Wood Lover Paralysis.

Thankfully, Mr. Eckert stated that the OPS had teamed up with world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets, who offered his full support to the OPS.  Hopefully Mr. Stamets will work with the OPS to ensure that the mushrooms used in the OPS’s proposed therapy sessions contain only known amounts of known (non-paralytic) ingredients.  This could be accomplished by cultivating a particular well-studied strain of psilocybin mushrooms for use in the OPS proposed psilocybin therapy sessions.

Visit the Oregon Psilocybin Society’s “Psilocybin Services Initiative” website by clicking this link.

3 thoughts on “Oregon Psilocybin Society (“OPS”) – Psilocybin Mushroom Services

  1. Tom Eckert Reply

    Hi, Tom Eckert here. A couple of clarifications. Firstly, the language of the PSI 2020 initiative requires that, if the legislation passes, the Oregon Health Authority cannot exclude the use of mushrooms for psilocybin services. The language, however, does not say that only mushrooms can be used. Pure or synthetic products are not necessarily excluded.
    With regard to potential dangers (to the degree that they exist) related to the use of mushrooms (as opposed to pure / synthetic), the language requires the establishment of an advisory board of experts to address any and all such issues.
    With regard to Paul Stamets, we’re happy to say that he has been very supportive of us and positive about our messaging, but I would also make clear that we haven’t officially asked Paul or anyone else to endorse the campaign or throw their “full support” behind it just yet. With regard to “teaming up” with Paul, that has to do with doing events together and spreading the good word. Not to say that the collaborative opportunities mentioned in this article aren’t a possibility, but that conversation is still evolving.
    Thank you for the coverage, and feel free to reach out!

  2. Tom Welsh Reply

    Above you state that PSI 2020 is focused solely on bringing psilocybin services to Oregon. My understanding is that it also seeks to decriminalize possession, harvesting, and cultivation of small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms.
    Cheers!

    • Staff Scientist Post authorReply

      Hi Tom – Based on the PSI 2020 webpage, the initiative is focused primarily on legalizing services provided by licensed providers. (We have copy/pasted PSI’s summary of the initiative below).

      To your point, the initiative also seeks to lessen penalties (currently criminal) for people in “unlawful possession” of “psilocybin.” Notably, the language used here is “psilocybin,” which is a single molecules — not psilocybin containing mushrooms, i.e., the fungal fruiting bodies that you refer to in your comment. Nevertheless, presumably, this part of the initiative is aimed at protecting the population that you identify, i.e., those people found guilty of “possession, harvesting, and cultivation of small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms.” (In other words, the legislative reform is probably not intended to address people walking around with pure psilocybin).

      “The Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon, completed in the summer of 2018, is a carefully crafted piece of legislation. It defines a regulatory framework to allow access to guided psilocybin services in the state of Oregon. It also includes a tiered scheme to lower penalties in relation to the unlawful possession of psilocybin in Oregon. The proposed legislation is currently advancing as a ballot initiative measure aimed at the 2020 election cycle. The initiative campaign, led by PSI 2020 and the Oregon Psilocybin Society, is currently working to gather over 100,000 petition signatures to secure inclusion on the 2020 ballot.

      Under the proposed measure, any individual over 21 years of age, upon attaining medical clearance from a physician, could participate in a sequence of sessions, provided on-site at an independently licensed psilocybin service facility. A client would not need to be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition to access these services. The guided service progression would include, at minimum, an assessment and preparation session, a psilocybin administration session, and an integration session. All sessions would be facilitated by providers who have completed an approved training course and are licensed by the state of Oregon specifically to provide these services.

      The language of the initiative takes client privacy seriously. There will be no state registry of clients. Client data will be managed confidentially at licensed service centers, subject to HIPAA privacy laws.

      The measure aims to define a community-based service framework, in which independently licensed providers follow safety and best practice standards while providing psilocybin services at licensed, non-residential premises. Psilocybin products will be cultivated and processed at specifically licensed establishments, following careful health and safety standards.

      The measure establishes a Psilocybin Services Program within the Oregon Health Authority. The program will establish licensing requirements for producing and processing psilocybin, operating production centers, operating service centers, and administering psilocybin services to qualified clients. In an oversight capacity, the program will establish a system for tracking the cultivation, processing, and transport of psilocybin mushrooms and psilocybin products between licensed entities, while ensuring that activities related to the administration of psilocybin services are conducted in compliance with the rules and standards established in the Act.

      The program will establish an advisory board, made up of experts from a variety of relevant fields of study, who will compile, publish, and update approved practice standards and a code of ethics. The board will consider emerging academic, scientific and clinical research and public policies concerning psilocybin and, to the greatest extent possible, utilize such information in adopting, amending, or repealing rules and establishing minimum standards of practice.”

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