Should Magic Mushrooms Be Legal?

“Marijuana is becoming legal in more parts of the country, both medicinally and recreationally. A new group of advocates is following the pot playbook to change laws regarding hallucinogens, specifically magic mushrooms.

A small but growing campaign to legalize magic mushrooms has spread its spores into a handful of spots across the United States. In May, Denver became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms. A month later, the Oakland City Council did the same. Under decriminalization, psilocybin is still officially illegal, but city agencies do not enforce laws that ban it.

Under federal law, psilocybin and similar hallucinogens are classified by the U.S. government as Schedule I drugs, substances with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Supporters of legalizing magic mushrooms point to evidence that the classification is incorrect on both counts. Recent research suggests psilocybin may be an effective treatment for psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. Magic mushrooms also come with a low risk of addiction, studies suggest. There is some evidence that psilocybin can help people break their addictions to other substances, specifically smoking.

Read the full article at Yahoo News

Should Magic Mushrooms Be Legal?

“Marijuana is becoming legal in more parts of the country, both medicinally and recreationally. A new group of advocates is following the pot playbook to change laws regarding hallucinogens, specifically magic mushrooms.

A small but growing campaign to legalize magic mushrooms has spread its spores into a handful of spots across the United States. In May, Denver became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms. A month later, the Oakland City Council did the same. Under decriminalization, psilocybin is still officially illegal, but city agencies do not enforce laws that ban it.

Under federal law, psilocybin and similar hallucinogens are classified by the U.S. government as Schedule I drugs, substances with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Why there’s a debate:

Supporters of legalizing magic mushrooms point to evidence that the classification is incorrect on both counts. Recent research suggests psilocybin may be an effective treatment for psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. Magic mushrooms also come with a low risk of addiction, studies suggest. There is some evidence that psilocybin can help people break their addictions to other substances, specifically smoking.

Many of these benefits, some say, are present when users practice “microdosing” — taking a small amount that provides psychological benefits without creating a hallucinogenic effect. Microdosing can improve creativity and focus, practitioners report.

Perspectives

Psilocybin may be a revolutionary treatment for depression

“It’s really unprecedented in medical history to see effects for depression that are caused by a single medication.” — Johns Hopkins University researcher Matthew Johnson to NPR

The drug should be made accessible to certain vulnerable groups

“If Prozac had the effects observed in the best current studies on psychedelics, withholding it from the depressed or dying would be considered a human rights violation as serious as failing, out of spite, to set a broken leg.” — Graeme Wood, Atlantic.

Continue reading at Yahoo News

Could Magic Mushrooms Ever Replace Today’s Antidepressants?

“Interest in using hallucinogens, such as magic mushrooms, to treat depression is on the rise, fueled by the results of early clinical trials in people with cancer.

Researchers caution it will be several years before data is available from the first randomized trials of psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms — for depression in those without cancer.

But advocates say psilocybin could provide an effective treatment for depression with fewer side effects than current antidepressants, which leave many people emotionally “blunted.”

“The work is very promising, with large effects shown for depression in the two largest studies in cancer patients, and large effects in the single published study outside of cancer,” said Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

One of these studies — conducted in 2016 by researchers at Imperial College London and other institutions — found that a single dose of psilocybin had a long-lasting effect on people with moderate to severe major depression.

“This study showed an antidepressant effect after a week and enduring for a couple of months,” said Dr. Stephen Ross, co-director of the NYU Psychedelic Research Group in New York City.

However, he points out the study didn’t compare people taking psilocybin to people not taking the drug — the control group. So, the study results don’t necessarily show that psilocybin works for depression.

The strongest psilocybin data so far is for treating anxiety and depression in people with cancer, carried out in two clinical trials by Ross and other researchers at NYU and by Johnson and others at Johns Hopkins University.

These studies, which included 80 participants combined, showed that psilocybin worked better than a non-hallucinogenic placebo for treating cancer-related depression.

More of this story at Healthline

Could Magic Mushrooms Ever Replace Today’s Antidepressants?

“Interest in using hallucinogens, such as magic mushrooms, to treat depression is on the rise, fueled by the results of early clinical trials in people with cancer.

Researchers caution it will be several years before data is available from the first randomized trials of psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms — for depression in those without cancer.

But advocates say psilocybin could provide an effective treatment for depression with fewer side effects than current antidepressants, which leave many people emotionally “blunted.”

“The work is very promising, with large effects shown for depression in the two largest studies in cancer patients, and large effects in the single published study outside of cancer,” said Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Promising results of early clinical trials

One of these studies — conducted in 2016 by researchers at Imperial College London and other institutions — found that a single dose of psilocybin had a long-lasting effect on people with moderate to severe major depression.

“This study showed an antidepressant effect after a week and enduring for a couple of months,” said Dr. Stephen Ross, co-director of the NYU Psychedelic Research Group in New York City.

However, he points out the study didn’t compare people taking psilocybin to people not taking the drug — the control group. So, the study results don’t necessarily show that psilocybin works for depression.

The strongest psilocybin data so far is for treating anxiety and depression in people with cancer, carried out in two clinical trials by Ross and other researchers at NYU and by Johnson and others at Johns Hopkins University.

Interest in psilocybin research, but also hurdles

In addition to the research being done at NYU, Johns Hopkins, and other universities, two pharma like companies is also doing psilocybin research.

Usona Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, is planning a multisite phase II study of psilocybin for major depression. This kind of early clinical trial focuses on determining the best dose of psilocybin to use and its safety.

Ross will be the lead investigator for the NYU site. He says the hope is that this research, once completed, will go on to a full randomized clinical trial, also known as phase III.

The other company is U.K.-based COMPASS Pathways. It’s beginning a randomized clinical trial looking at psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

In 2018, the company received breakthrough therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this therapy.

Continue reading at Healthline

The Heady Thorny Journey To Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms

“Denver café populated almost entirely by young people staring at laptops, Travis Tyler Fluck—dressed in an orange velour jacket, over which is draped a thin braided lock of hair—takes out his phone and pulls up Craigslist.

A quick search lands him on a post advertising $10 magic mushrooms, with a poorly lit photo of said mushrooms. A good deal for anyone but Fluck, who helped leads the ballot campaign to essentially decriminalize magic mushrooms in this city by making enforcement an extremely low priority, a measure that passed by the slimmest of margins early last month.

Instead of reaching out to the seller, he flags the post. After all, the measure says you can grow and possess mushrooms for personal use, but that doesn’t mean you can sell them. Selling on Craigslist is a bad look for a measure that a small majority of voters approved.

Kevin Matthews—director of Decriminalize Denver, which led the ballot campaign—arrives and sits down on a couch opposite Fluck, who shows him the post on his screen.

Meanwhile, the psilocybin decriminalization movement is snowballing at an incredible clip. Last week, the Oakland, California, city council voted unanimously to decriminalize a range of psychedelic plants, including mushrooms and cacti. And Oregon is considering a measure in 2020 to allow access to “guided psilocybin services,” while lowering penalties for possession.

How quickly is the push to decriminalize psilocybin progressing, exactly? So quickly that it’s even surprised psychedelics advocates. “The fact that it’s happening so fast is kind of amazing,” says Brad Burge, spokesperson for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which leads studies of psychedelic therapies, including the aforementioned MDMA trial. “Here we have some of the very first policy measures ever to be proposed around the decriminalization of psychedelic substances and they’re passing. This is so surprising, I’ve only just had a chance to start thinking about it.”

Read the full article at Wired

Denver Just Voted to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms

“Denver will become the first US city to effectively decriminalize mushrooms containing the psychedelic psilocybin, also known as “magic mushrooms.”

Initiative 301 makes the personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms among people 21 and older the lowest possible law enforcement priority in Denver. It also prohibits the city from spending resources to pursue criminal penalties related to the use or possession of psilocybin mushrooms among people 21 and older.

And the initiative sets up “the psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance.”

The initiative doesn’t legalize magic mushrooms; they remain illegal under state and federal law. And it doesn’t decriminalize or deprioritize enforcement against the distribution and sales of psilocybin mushrooms — all of that could still be pursued by police.

According to the Washington Post, Denver police arrested about 50 people a year over the past three years for possession or sale of psilocybin, and prosecutors acted on just 11 of the cases. That’s out of thousands of arrests overall in the city each year.

Voting began in Colorado, which does mail-in voting, last month and mostly concluded Tuesday (although a very small number of overseas and military votes can still come in). Things looked bad for the initiative late Tuesday, as it trailed behind in the results. But on Wednesday, the final tally came in — and showed Initiative 301 narrowly won with nearly 51 percent of the vote, according to the Denver Post and New York Times.

One potential source of real-world evidence on this: Portugal. After the country decriminalized all drugs, it saw a decrease in drug-related deaths and drops in reported past-year and past-month drug use, according to a 2014 report from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. But it also saw an increase in lifetime prevalence of drug use, as well as an uptick in reported use among teens after 2007.

What effects psilocybin decriminalization will have in the US, Colorado, or Denver, however, remain to be seen. Even more so than marijuana legalization, this is an area of policy that’s largely untested in modern America.

Continue Reading at Vox

Magic Mushrooms Could Be Decriminalized in Denver

“Now that marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use in Colorado, a portion of the public has turned its attention to decriminalizing psilocybin in Denver, the hallucinogen/psychedelic known as “magic mushrooms.” Initiative 301 will appear on municipal ballots on May 7, alongside another initiative that would legalize urban camping. The psilocybin question asks voters whether they support a change to city code “that would make the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by person twenty-one (21) years of age and older the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.”

In his 2018 book How To Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan—yes, he of the Omnivore’s Dilemma—explores whether science and the pharmaceutical industry can ever surmount psilocybin’s fraught countercultural history to examine it as a potential therapeutic treatment. Pollan’s book is lengthy, but a fascinating read for supporters and skeptics of psychedelics alike. I highly recommend it. He writes that since this mushroom’s discovery (by the West) in the mid-1950s, psilocybin has been shown by brain-imaging studies to create a “high-entropy brain,” in which “new connections spring up among regions that ordinarily kept mainly to themselves.” Researchers, led by Robin Carhartt-Harris of the Imperial College London, wrote in a 2014 paper that this temporary reconfiguring of the brain could potentially be useful in treating psychological disorders marked by mental rigidity such as addiction.

The Takeout

Can LSD and Magic Mushrooms Help Win Wars?

“Sanctioned psychedelic drug use as a medical or psychological treatment method is gaining ground as part of today’s hallucinogenic renaissance.

Recent scientific studies approved by the Food and Drug Administration have yielded positive cognitive results when administering “microdoses” of the drugs lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, and psilocybin, the alkaloid in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

But could this new wave of unorthodox treatment ever find its way into the ranks of the military? According to an article by Marine Maj. Emre Albayrak that was published in the February issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, it certainly should.

Microdosing, which refers to administering a minuscule quantity of the drug in order to avoid hallucinations or debilitating effects in the patient, is already being used by “scientists, Silicon Valley executives, biologists, biohackers, and others” to achieve a mental edge, Albayrak writes.

Administering in such doses has the potential to “significantly heighten alertness, creativity, and problem-solving.”

But an inability to process “superhuman” amounts of information in a community in which “one percent gains provide significant advantages” on the battlefield necessitates a better solution, Albayrak suggests.

Enter LSD and magic mushrooms.

“Like most hallucinogens, LSD mimics the effects of serotonin (a mood regulator),” the author says and activates enhanced mental acuity in the areas of learning and memory.

Additionally, the drug commonly referred to as “acid” can decrease blood circulation to the part of the brain that instigates periods of mind wandering.

Read the full article at Marine Times

Could Mushrooms Be The Next Drug To Be Decriminalised?

“Marijuana and magic mushrooms. One’s a plant, one’s a fungi, both are illegal – for now.

But psychedelic drug reform is already happening in the US. The city of Denver, which has already legalized recreational cannabis, is preparing to vote on whether to decriminalize magic mushrooms in May.

With New Zealand moving towards a referendum on our cannabis laws, News-hub spoke to Victoria University drug use expert Dr Fiona Hutton about whether or not we need to take a look at our laws on mushrooms.

Magic mushrooms (or shrooms) contain psilocybin, which is converted in the body to the psychedelic substance psilocin. They’re classified as Class A, meaning they come with the strongest penalties if you get caught with them.

Possession is a maximum of six months in prison – while the maximum penalty for supply is life in prison.

In medical trials, patients reported improvements in anxiety and depression. Other studies found psilocybin could help users kick their drug, alcohol, and nicotine addictions.

In the US, drug researchers, including Johns Hopkins University researcher Dr Matthew Johnson, said they were worried about the risk of bad trips and how people with psychotic disorders could be affected.

According to the 2017 annual Global Drug Survey, which relies on self-reported drug use, the rate of users who needed emergency medical care after using mushrooms was three times lower that of cannabis.

And research by UK drug expert Prof Nutt found that mushrooms were statistically the least dangerous out of 20 drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and LSD.

Read the full article at Newshub

Denver Should Legalize Magic Mushrooms

“The decriminalization of magic (psilocybin) mushrooms is going to be on the ballot in Denver in May, and voters should definitely go for it.

On February 1, the Denver Elections Division certified a petition from decriminalization activists, noting that it had received enough signatures for voters to decide on the issue in the municipal election. The measure would decriminalize the use of psilocybin — or “magic” — mushrooms within city limits.

It’s important to note that the measure would not legalize the drug, but simply make stopping possession of it a low priority for police, prohibiting the city and county from using any of its resources to punish people ages 21 and older for possessing the drug. The drug would still, of course, be considered illegal on the federal level.

Although mushrooms are a drug that may carry a lot of stigma, voters would be right to pass this measure in May. In fact, speaking generally, I would argue that drug decriminalization is always the right choice. After all, we are supposed to be a country that was founded on the principles of freedom and individual liberty, and locking people up for what they choose to put in their own bodies certainly seems opposite to that philosophy.

Another study suggests that mushrooms are also helpful for the mental health of those who are suffering with life-threatening illnesses. In 2016, a Johns Hopkins study reported that cancer patients who had received psilocybin experienced an average 78 percent reduction in depression and an 83 percent reduction in anxiety.

Read the full article at National Review

How Will Denver Change if it Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms?

“The Mile-High City might be about to get a bit higher. In May, the citizens of Denver, Colorado, will vote on whether or not to decriminalize magic mushrooms, the colloquial name given to a group of mushroom species that contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin.

In the US, psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug, taking a place alongside heroin and ecstasy, ostensibly as one of the most dangerous drugs around. However, this classification doesn’t seem to jibe with the scientific consensus on magic mushrooms.

Psilocybin is typically not abused and is not addictive (in fact, some research has shown it to reduce addiction to other drugs). Furthermore, it does indeed have some medical purposes. Research has shown that its impact on depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions is profound.

But Denverites aren’t talking about legalizing magic mushrooms purely for their medicinal properties; rather, they will be voting on whether or not to decriminalize the drug. First, decriminalization does not mean legalization—buying and selling the drug will still be illegal, but using and possessing it will simply not be prosecuted. Since this means the infrastructure to support its medical use won’t exist, we can assume that more Denverites will be using the drug recreationally.

If decriminalization and eventual legalization go ahead in Denver, what will this mean? Well, in addition to hallucinations, a distortion of time, and a sense of connectedness to the universe, magic mushrooms also have some more interesting long-term effects. First, some studies show that psilocybin usage can make people experience greater personal meaning, spiritual significance, and life satisfaction even six months after their initial dose.

Continue Reading at Big Think

Magic Mushroom Drug Evolved to Mess with Insect Brains

There’s something odd about the many species of magic mushrooms: they’re not related to each other.

Usually, you’d expect such a complex and powerful chemical as psilocybin – the magical ingredient — to be produced by a closely related group of organisms whose common ancestor discovered it once.

But not in this case. Scores of mushroom species – one even lichenized — from five different distantly-related families make it. A team of American scientists wondered about that and had a hunch about why it might be.

Although mushroom-making fungi, considered sophisticated and complicated for the fungal world — have only rarely been caught sharing DNA this way, the fact that they have made an exception for these genes implies psilocybin is a seriously hot item.

In humans, psilocybin is converted to psilocin on ingestion, which activates one of the same receptors as feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin and produces the wild effects for which the drug is known. Serotonin, incidentally, is the same molecule on which antidepressant serotonin-reuptake inhibitors like Prozac act. However, serotonin is not the private preserve of humans. All animals with left-right symmetry – including insects — produce serotonin, as well as some plants and fungi.

A plant has an apparent motive for stockpiling a chemical arsenal: salad bar prevention. But what about mushrooms? The majority of psilocybin-producing mushrooms are either wood or dung decayers. In those environments, they are not only being eaten by insects but also competing with them for food. Termites are major fungal competitors inside decaying logs, but a variety of other wood- and dung-eating insects compete with fungi for food.

Psilocybin may help tilt the playing field in the fungus’s favor by causing insects to, I don’t know, maybe blank on what they went in that log for again? Another serotonin antagonist to a receptor called 5HT-2A causes Drosophila fruit flies to somehow neglect to eat the fruit they’re sitting on. Whatever they’re experiencing, though, is unlikely to be fun. Insects lack the dopamine-based reward systems also triggered by many of the drugs that make them so pleasurable and addictive to humans (although psilocybin acts on serotonin receptors and is non-addictive).

Read the full article at Scientific American

Magic Mushrooms? How Fungi Could Help Bees Fight Disease

“Colony collapse disorder” — or massive die-offs of bees — has caused international alarm in recent years, with experts blaming mites, viruses, and pesticides for the phenomenon.

The UN warned last year that bees were at risk of global extinction — but new research suggests fungi extracts could effectively inoculate bees against some of the most devastating viruses attacking them (AFP / Fred TANNEAU / MANILA BULLETIN)

Some countries have already moved to ban certain pesticides, and beekeepers use poisons to tackle mite infestations that can take out whole colonies.

But new research published Thursday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports suggests fungi extracts could effectively inoculate bees against some of the most devastating viruses attacking them.

The research was inspired by the observation that honeybees appear to feed on fungi in the wild, and a “growing body of evidence (that) indicates honey bees self-medicate using plant-derived substances”, the study says.

Mushroom extracts are already used against several viruses in humans and the authors reasoned fungi might have similar properties for bees.

Read more at Manila Bulletin

FDA Approve ‘Magic Mushroom’ Treatment”

On Aug. 23, COMPASS pathways, a life science firm, finally got the thumbs up from the Food and Drug Administration to conduct clinical trials to treat patients who did not have luck with the other conventional treatments for depression.

Around 216 patients will partake in this trial in Europe and in North America starting in early September. The clinical study will actually need a smaller amount of patients and reduce treatment time up to an hour and a half.

Most physicians recommend treatments that do not necessarily work for some patients. This will give them a positive reinforcement that they will finally get the healthy help they have been longing. NOBODY wishes to feel as if they’ve been lobotomized from the prescribed medication that a physician has given you.

Since the early 60’s, the FDA has been apprehensive about the treatment of psilocybin due to its history of people in the past using it recreationally to experience these hallucinogenic trips.

Its mass hysteria caused it to be such a taboo subject in which any affiliation with these “magic mushrooms” is said to be thought-out as crazy or straight out rejected by any physician.

Previous research and studies show proof that a small dose of this agent can immediately assist the reduction of depression and other conditions such as drug addicts trying to become sober, terminally ill patients who suffer from anxiety because of thought of them dying and past ex-military veterans who experience PTSD.

Read the full article at Talon Marks

What Ever Happened to Denver’s Magic Mushroom Initiative?

Nearly three months ago, a group of Denverites made a big splash with their campaign to decriminalize magic mushrooms, chanting “free the spores” and holding up signs that read, “I am a psilocybin patient,” outside of the Denver City and County Building.

They vowed to turn Denver into a safe space for psychedelics users and, they said, private research. After all, Denver has a history of progressive drug policies; it decriminalized possession of cannabis in 2005, years before statewide recreational legalization.

But the campaign Denver for Psilocybin — backed by members of the cannabis community such as weed doctor and neuroscientist Michele Ross and Straight Hemp CEO Devin Alvarez — has faced hurdles in its bid for the ballot since making its bold announcement in early March. It’s still struggling to get its petition language approved and has been denied twice by the city, most recently on May 7. With little time left to gather signatures before the August deadline, there’s a chance that Denver residents may not see the initiative this November.

Even if Denver for Psilocybin has its petition approved on the third attempt, it would be on a huge time crunch to turn in the requisite 4,726 valid signatures in a little more than a month.

Read the full article at Westword

First, Marijuana. Are ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Next?

In Oregon and Denver, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, activists are now pushing toward a psychedelic frontier: “magic mushrooms.”

Groups in both states are sponsoring ballot measures that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of the mushrooms whose active ingredient, psilocybin, can cause hallucinations, euphoria and changes in perception. They point to research showing that psilocybin might be helpful for people suffering from depression or anxiety.

The recent failure of a nationally publicized campaign to decriminalize hallucinogenic mushrooms in California may not portend well for the psilocybin advocates in Oregon and Denver — though their initiatives are more limited than California’s.

In Oregon, advocates face a steep climb to qualify their measure for the ballot, because such statewide initiatives typically require hiring paid signature gatherers, said William Lunch, a political analyst for Oregon Public Broadcasting and a former political science professor at Oregon State University.

Still, familiarity with recreational marijuana may have “softened up” voters and opponents of drug decriminalization, he said. Oregon legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2015, Colorado in 2012.

Read more at Oregon Live

Are psychedelic Mushrooms The Next Legalization Frontier After Cannabis?

Now that states have proven that issues like cannabis legalization can be successful at the ballot box, activists are establishing a new front for legalization: magic mushrooms.

In Colorado, that form of activism comes from a group called Denver for Psilocybin led by Kevin Matthews, the organizer of a new ballot initiative. Matthews’ initiative aims to take the question of decriminalization to the voters this fall and, if he’s successful, the city and county of Denver would allow residents to carry up to 2 ounces of dried mushrooms and grow up to 2 lbs at home.

Under the new regulations, psilocybin mushrooms would be placed among the lowest law enforcement priorities and would not carry felony charges or the threat of imprisonment. The most an individual could get for being caught with psychedelic mushrooms would be a $99 fine, which could increase by $100 for every subsequent offense up to $999.

So why legalize psilocybin? Is this just the next logical step after cannabis? The answer for Matthews and other activists is in the science. Since the early 2000s, there’s been a growing body of research into the promise of psilocybin—the psychoactive component of psychedelic mushrooms—as a treatment for a number of mental health conditions from severe depression to cigarette addiction.

Read more at Herb

Research Says: Magic Mushroom Could Lead To Help For Addicts

“Getting drugs to the brain can be so difficult, but fungi have already figured out how to do that,” said Hannah Reynolds, assistant professor of biology at Western Connecticut State University and co-author of the new study.

Magic mushrooms owe their mind-bending properties to the production of psilocybin, a brain-altering compound that mimics the neurotransmitter serotonin.

In 1970, national laws swept psilocybin into the category of banned Schedule I drugs, which also includes other psychoactive substances such as LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana. Federal restrictions also extended to the use psilocybin in laboratories and clinical trials, which meant that for decades researchers have had extremely limited opportunity to explore its therapeutic potential.

But science is on the cusp of a psychedelic research renaissance, Slot said.

“It’s been a sea change,” he said.

Understanding what environmental conditions cause the natural evolution of mind-altering substances such as psilocybin opens up the possibility of discovering more of them and harnessing them for human use, she said.

Continue Reading at The Alliance Review

Magic Mushrooms Kill the Appetite

New research on the evolutionary genetics of fungi reveals that the compound that makes some mushrooms ‘magic’ may have evolved as a defensive mechanism to discourage invertebrates from eating them.

Psilocybin occurs in a diverse group of fungi, with genetic analysis indicating that it may have evolved several times. This led a group of researchers from the Ohio State University in the US to suspect that a mechanism known as horizontal gene transfer may be occurring.

Horizontal gene transfer involves the movement of genetic material between species, carried by mobile cells such as bacteriophages. It is a process associated with stressful environments, and is rare in complex multicellular organisms.

Researchers found that distantly related fungi in dung and decaying-wood niches showed less variation in their genome content than close relatives in alternative niches. This suggest that the genomes are shaped in part by shared ecological pressures.

It appears that the biological niche of the psilocybin-containing mushrooms provides a clue. In humans, psilocybin causes profound altered states of consciousness and other symptoms such as increased heart rate and dilated pupils.

Read more at Cosmos Magazine

Reason ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Evolved to Get You High

“Magic” mushrooms seem to have passed their genes for mind-altering substances around among distant species as a survival mechanism: By making fungus-eating insects “trip,” the bugs become less hungry — and less likely to feast on mushrooms.

The researchers studied a group of mushrooms that all produce psilocybin — the chemical agent that causes altered states of consciousness in human beings — but aren’t closely related. The scientists found that the clusters of genes that caused the ‘shrooms to fill themselves with psilocybin were very similar to one another, more similar even than clusters of genes found in closely related species of mushrooms.

HGT isn’t really one process, as the biologist Alita Burmeister explained in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health in 2015. Instead, it’s the term for a group of more or less well-understood processes — like viruses picking up genes from one species and dropping them in another — that can cause groups of genes to jump between species.

The researchers suggested — but didn’t claim to prove — that the crisis in this case was droves of insects feasting on the defenseless mushrooms. Most of the species the scientists studied grew on animal dung and rotting wood — insect-rich environments (and environments full of opportunities to perform HGT). Psilocybin, the scientists wrote, might suppress insects’ appetites or otherwise induce the bugs to stop munching quite so much mush’.

Live Science