Psilocybin is Poorly understood

In October of 2017, Scientific Reports accurately characterized the state of the art for psilocybin technology as “showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood.”

Similarly Dr. Zane Horowitz, the medical director at the Oregon Poison Center points out that any conclusions about psilocybin therapy “are far from concrete,” noting that “not even 100 people have been treated in the entire United States.”  He explains that “we are so preliminary in the research that it’s hard to say that this will ever come to fruition as a pharmaceutical agent.”

Because of psilocybin’s categorization as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, very little research has been done in this area.  Accordingly, the state of the art for psilocybin products is underdeveloped.  In 2018, ABC News quoted Ohio State plant pathologist Jason Slot, who explained “there’s been prohibition on the science for decades and so the science has really fallen behind.”

In the 1960s, pure synthetic psilocybin (Indocybin®) was marketed by Sandoz for experimental and psychotherapeutic purposes.

Most users of psilocybin consume it by eating magic mushrooms.  Alternatively, some users may make extracts, teas, tinctures, or edible preparations of the mushrooms in order to mask the taste.  In some extremely rare cases, psilocybin may be consumed in its purified state.

Eating “Magic Mushrooms”

Eating mushrooms is the most popular means for administering psilocybin.  Eating mushrooms is probably not the best way to administer the desired active ingredient.  Although more than 200 species of mushrooms contain psilocybin, these mushrooms are often difficult to identify because they look like many other species.

Psilocybe cyanescens is a species of mushroom known to contain psilocybin and psilocin.

Some of those species are poisonous.  And, even when the desired mushrooms are properly identified, those specimens often vary substantially in the amount of the active ingredients present.

Accordingly, there has been virtually no research and development in the psilocybin space.  The state of the art is stuck in the 1960s: consuming mushrooms in some form.

Recent Revival of Psilocybin Research

Recent research has shown that psilocybin provides significant benefits for people suffering from depression.  According to a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, “Treatment with psilocybin produced rapid and sustain antidepressant effects.”

Ronald Griffiths of John Hopkins University is considered by many to be the grandfather of current psychedelic research and he is a clinical pharmacologist who has conducted a series of studies funded by the U.S. government on psilocybin. One of his more recent studies involved the use of psilocybin to treat depression (Griffiths, et. al., 2016).
Other prominent researchers have confirmed Griffiths’ findings that psilocybin is associated with a positive effect on depression (Carhart-Harris 2016).
Recent research has also shown psilocybin may be useful for treating alcohol addiction (Bogenschutz, 2015). Several recent studies have also shown psilocybin to be effective in smoking cessation (Cahill, et. al., 2016; Garcia-Romeu, et. al.; and 2014, Johnson, et. al., 2014).

Recently, several independent groups have reported results suggesting that psilocybin can be used to treat (or reduce the incidence of) violent behavior.

References Regarding Psilocybin State of the Art

  1. Garcia-Romeu A, Griffiths RR, Johnson MW. Psilocybin-occasioned mystical experiences in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2014; 7(3):157-64.
  2. Carhart-Harris RL, Bolstridge M, Rucker J, Day CMJ, Erritzoe D, Kaelen M, Bloomfield M, Rickard JA, Forbes B, Feilding A, Taylor D, Pilling S, Curran VH, Nutt DJet al., 2016, Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study, LANCET PSYCHIATRY, Vol: 3, Pages: 619-627, ISSN: 2215-0374.
  3. Bogenschutz MP, Forcehimes AA, Pommy JA, Wilcox CE, Barbosa PCR, Strassman RJ. Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of-concept study. J Psychopharmacol 2015;29:289–299. doi:10.1177/0269881114565144.
  4. Cahill K, Lindson-Hawley N, Thomas KH, Fanshawe TR, Lancaster T. Nicotine receptor partial agonists for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 May 9; (5):CD006103. Epub 2016 May 9.
  5. Garcia-Romeu A, Griffiths RR, Johnson MW. Psilocybin-occasioned mystical experiences in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2014; 7(3):157-64.