Psilocybin Research is Still in the Dark Ages

The Need to Understand the Research

Recently, a research group from Imperial College London demonstrated that psilocybin can “reset” the brains of intractably depressed people, offering them relief from their “treatment resistant” depression.  See our original blog post here. The Imperial College London study was published in Scientific Reports.  Many large media outlets have reported on the study since its publication.

Most second-hand reports of the science have accurately copied and pasted from either the Scientific Reports article or the Imperial College press release.  However, some authors have included statements that are completely incorrect.  For example, the Independent reported that study participants were given mushrooms whereas they were actually given 100% pure psilocybin.  (Psilocybin mushrooms can contain up to about 2% psilocybin, which is considerably less than 100%).

Very Little Research on Psilocybin

Forbes Magazine ran an article by David DiSalvo. For the most part, this article accurately presented the original conclusions: “Magic Mushrooms Show Promise As Depression Remedy By ‘Resetting’ The Brain.” However, Mr. DiSalvo is mistaken concerning one small but critical detail. Regarding the state of the art for psilocybin technology,  Mr. DiSalvo writes:

“The controversial class of drugs, which includes [psilocybin,] LSD and MDMA, have always generated research attention….”

Not true.  And, this is an important point.

Until very recently, drugs like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, etc. have not generated much research attention. Because of psilocybin’s categorization as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, very little research has been done in this area.  Despite some recent findings, most governing bodies consider psilocybin to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”  For this reason, the Scientific Reports article described the state of the art for psilocybin technology as “poorly understood.”  The mechanisms of psilocybin are poorly understood because they almost never receive adequate research attention.

To be clear, this class of “psychedelic” drugs is poorly understood because they do not receive enough legitimate research attention.  Hopefully, we will recognize this error and incentivize more scientific studies like those conducted at the Imperial College London.  If anyone has ideas as to how to improve our understanding in this area, please post below or contact us directly.