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.
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.