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

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

The Trippy 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.

That’s a sign, the researchers wrote, that the genes weren’t inherited from a common ancestor, but instead were passed directly between distant species in a phenomenon known as “horizontal gene transfer” or HGT.

However, HGT is believed to be pretty uncommon in complex, mushroom-forming fungi, turning up much more often in single-celled organisms.

When a horizontally transferred gene takes hold and spreads after landing in a new species, the paper’s authors wrote, scientists believe that’s a sign that the gene offered a solution to some crisis the organism’s old genetic code couldn’t solve on its own.

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

Psychedelics Stop Oppression? Magic Mushroom Compound Shown To Soften Authoritarian Views

A new experimental research program has provided the first evidence that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, might decrease authoritarian views.

“Magic” mushrooms have become inextricably linked to the nature-loving, political counterculture that often seeks them out. But what if psilocybin was actually what led people to exhibit those traits, rather than the other way around?

Scientists from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London conducted a study using seven participants with treatment-resistant depression, which refers to chronic depression that doesn’t respond to therapy or medication, or most likely a combination of the two.

The psilocybin group experienced a significant reduction in authoritarian leanings, with noticeable changes holding up even at the seven- to 12-month mark. The control group exhibited no such change. “These results suggest that psilocybin therapy may persistently decrease authoritarian attitudes post-treatment with psilocybin,” the team wrote in a new paper describing their research, which was published in the scientific journal Psychopharmacology.

There are substantial caveats to this study, the first being its sample size—seven people is an unusually small number for this sort of thing. Another is that it’s possible the reduction in depression the participants reported is what caused any ideological changes.

Newsweek

Magic Mushrooms: Treating Depression Without Dulling Emotions

Treating depression can be challenging not only because some depression types are treatment-resistant, but also because existing therapies have a range of unwanted side effects.

A new study — which was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) in the United Kingdom — suggests that magic mushrooms could treat depression while avoiding these side effects.

Participants felt ’emotionally reconnected’

In the first study, published in the journal Neuropharmacology, 20 people diagnosed with moderate to severe depression that conventional treatment had not alleviated participated in two dosing sessions with the magic mushroom compound.

“Based on the present results, we propose that psilocybin with psychological support is a treatment approach that potentially revives emotional responsiveness in depression, enabling patients to reconnect with their emotions.”

‘Mystical experience’ improves efficacy

The second paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, examined whether or not the quality of the psychedelic experience was linked with the success of the treatment.

The study revealed that the more strongly the participants felt this experience, the better was their mental health in the long-term.

Depressive symptoms subsided, and the mental benefits lasted for weeks after the treatment of participants who reported a strong mystical experience.

Read more at Medical News Today

Cannabis Is Now Legal in California

California has now joined a number of states changing their approach to marijuana, which marks exciting times for national drug reform. If you’re over the age of 21, it is now legal to grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce (!) on your person.

While the state’s residents have already been celebrating the news, tracking down a spot to purchase your recreational weed may prove a little difficult in these early days.

However, this may not indicate the end of drug dealers pedaling marijuana, as taxes are expected to raise the retail cost of the pot up to 70 percent higher than the street price. Nonetheless, It’s a very, very happy new year for Californians.

Papermag

Mike Tyson Is Building a 40-Acre California Weed Resort

Mike Tyson has been a boxer, an actor, a monologuist, and an animated detective, but now it looks like the former heavyweight champion wants to take a bite out of California’s new legal weed game.

According to the Blast, Tyson and two business partners—Robert Hickman and Jay Strommen—have plans to build a massive “cannabis resort” on 40 acres of desert land in California City. The trio broke ground on the property back in December and are getting things rolling now that California has officially legalized marijuana.

It seems like the rest of the Mojave Desert land, though, will earn Tyson Ranch its “resort” title. The Beast reports that there will be “premium ‘glamping’ campgrounds and cabins” for people to stay in, an amphitheater for live music, and a factory for marijuana edibles.

The resort’s land isn’t far from Edwards Air Force Base, and the Blast reports that the ranch will be staffed mostly by veterans and will be committed to helping those in the armed forces, as CBD, a marijuana compound that won’t get you high, has been used to treat PTSD.

Read more at Vice

7 Mind-bending Facts About Magic Mushrooms

Fungi have flourished on Earth for quite a while, possibly more than 2 billion years. They’ve evolved some impressive tricks during that time, including many that are either fascinating or frightening to humans — and sometimes a bit of both.

And then there are magic mushrooms, also known as “shrooms.” These fungi are famed for their psychedelic effects on people who ingest them, an ancient practice dating back to prehistoric “mushroom cults” and shamans who may have inspired Santa Claus. Yet even after centuries of experience, we are only now demystifying many of the magical — and medicinal — powers these mushrooms possess.

Psychedelic fungi fall into two general categories, each characterized by a distinct mix of mind-altering ingredients that make their mushrooms “magic.”

The largest, most common group produces hallucinogens called psilocybin and psilocin and features more than 180 species from every continent except Antarctica. These diverse fungi hail from roughly a dozen genera, but are often lumped together as “psilocybin mushrooms.” Most belong to the genus Psilocybe, including well-known species like P. cubensis (“gold top”) and P. semilanceata (“liberty cap”).

Read more at Mother Nature Network

Peter Thiel Is Betting On Magic Mushrooms To Treat Depression

When Clark Martin tripped on magic mushrooms for the first time, he felt as though he’d been knocked off a boat and left for dead.

“It was like falling off the boat in the open ocean, looking back, and the boat is gone. Then the water disappears. Then you disappear,” he told Business Insider in January.

But Martin wasn’t alone. Two researchers from New York University were by his side to guide him through his trip. It was an experience that Martin had signed up for as part of one of the first large-scale clinical trials of magic mushrooms for depression and anxiety.

The results of that study were so promising that they jump-started a sort of renaissance in psychedelic research that’s now being led by a handful of non-profit research organizations and startups.

“The whole ‘you’ thing just kinda drops out into a more timeless, more formless presence,” Martin said.

Martin was one of several people who had been diagnosed with cancer and developed what’s known as end-of-life anxiety and depression. Deep feelings of hopelessness had driven him to near-complete isolation, ruining his relationships with his family and friends and creating a vicious cycle where he constantly felt lonely, trapped, and afraid.

Read the full article at Business Insider

Are Magic Mushrooms Next On The List Of Legalized Drugs?

Citing the benefits of widespread marijuana reform throughout the United States, a handful of activists are now mounting a campaign to push for the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms.

As reported by The Guardian:

Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate for the city of Marina, just south of the San Francisco Bay, has filed a proposal that would exempt adults over the age of 21 from any penalties over possessing, growing, selling or transporting psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms.

If he can get 365,880 voter signatures by the end of April 2018, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative will be placed on the statewide ballot.

A profound magic mushroom experience helped Saunders get over a “debilitating five-year heroin addiction” in 2003 when he was 32. “I got to the root of why I made a conscious decision to become a heroin addict; I’ve been clean almost 15 years.”

The study has since been verified by sufferers all over the country who tell their stories on Web forums. The Atlantic reports that one contributor wrote that he has been taking a preventative dose every 60 days for more than four years now, and he’s spent “the vast majority of the last four years completely pain-free.”

Read more at PersonalLiberty

Magic Mushroom Compound Could Treat Depression

A compound commonly found in “magic mushrooms” may work some magic on patients struggling with depression.

A study out of Imperial College London recently touted the benefits of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found naturally in the mushrooms.

Researchers of the paper published in Scientific Reports said the psychedelic compound can hit the “reset button” on brain circuits that contribute to depression.

Researching the psychedelic compound is nothing new.

Dr. George Greer, medical director at Heffter Research Institute in New Mexico, is part of an organization that studies psilocybin to treat cancer, addiction, and other ailments.

In the study out of Imperial College London, 19 patients took 2 doses of psilocybin, a week apart.

Each patient had two brain scans following each dose.

Then, researchers looked at their brains using two imaging methods.

Read the full article at Healthline

Magic Mushrooms’ Might Ease Depression Symptoms

Psilocybin, the main ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” may soothe symptoms of depression, according to a very preliminary study.

The research had a small sample size — only 20 patients — and no control group who got a placebo for comparison’s sake. That makes it hard to draw firm conclusions about if or how well the hallucinogenic compound really works at fighting depression. But brain-scan data from the new research suggests that psilocybin does impact brain networks that are associated with depression.

Stubborn Depression

The researchers focused on 20 people who had tried standard depression treatments and found them lacking. Each participant, classified as having treatment-resistant depression, took a 10-milligram dose of psilocybin, followed by another 25 milligrams one week later, enough to cause hallucinogenic effects.

The immediately striking finding was that taking psilocybin, which occurs naturally in hundreds of mushroom species, decreased depression symptoms significantly.

A new form of treatment?

“Based on what we know from various brain-imaging studies with psychedelics, as well as taking heed of what people say about their experiences, it may be that psychedelics do indeed ‘reset’ the brain networks associated with depression, effectively enabling them to be lifted from the depressed state,” study leader Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of psychedelic research at Imperial College, said in a statement.

Read the full article at Live Science

Magic Mushroom Chemical Appears to Physically Change Depressed Brains

Magic mushrooms are a strange drug. They’re one part illegal music festival enhancer, one part promising treatment that could have important medical applications. That second use continues to look more and more promising.

A new study from researchers in the United Kingdom and South Africa monitored the brains of folks trying psilocybin, the magic mushroom chemical, for depression that wasn’t kicked by the usual treatments. The psychedelic not only reduced the symptoms of depression but seemed to have a noticeable physical effect.

The study followed 15 male and four female depressed patients (which ultimately became 12 and then 11 male patients) receiving two doses of the drug over two weeks, who were then monitored for five weeks after. All of the patients had fewer symptoms of depression in the first week, and around half showed improvement at five weeks.

The paper points out that this is a tiny study with no control, and the researchers reminded New Scientist that you shouldn’t try to self-medicate with psychedelics. But it’s also promising. “This is further evidence that psilocybin may turn out to be effective for the most stubborn depression,” Paul Morrison from King’s College London told them.

Read the full article at Gizmodo

Study: Magic Mushrooms ‘Reboot’ Brain In Depressed People

Magic mushrooms may effectively “reset” the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests.

A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ – podcast
Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade. Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after.

“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”

For the study, published in Scientific Reports on Friday, 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first. Of these, 19 underwent initial brain imaging and then the second scan one day after the high dose treatment. The team used two main brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and the crosstalk between brain regions, with patients reporting their depressive symptoms through completing clinical questionnaires.

The authors believe the findings provide a new window into what happens in the brains of people after they have ‘come down’ from a psychedelic, with an initial disintegration of brain networks during the drug ‘trip’ followed by a re-integration afterward.

Full article at The Guardian

Powerful Hallucinogen Could bring Relief To Chronic Itching

People who suffer from chronic itching say it’s more unbearable than pain. I’ll never forget a 2008 story called The Itch in The New Yorker.

Chemical and Engineering News reports that a compound in the popular psychedelic plant Salvia divinorum was found to contain a compound that is found to provide itch relief to mice.

Salvinorin A, a hallucinogen produced by the Mexican plant Salvia divinorum, holds promise for treating itch and pain because it activates the κ-opioid receptor while avoiding the μ-opioid receptor, a sister receptor that’s been associated with opioid abuse.

Chemists have tried to synthesize salvinorin A so that they could alter the structure to sidestep the compound’s psychoactive effects while preserving its analgesic properties.

More of this news at Boing Boing

Californians Might Vote on ‘Magic Mushroom’ Legalization in 2018

Californians might vote on whether to decriminalize the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms as early as 2018, under a newly proposed ballot measure.

The measure — which was filed on Friday (Aug. 25) with the state Attorney General’s office — would exempt people ages 21 and over from criminal penalties for using, possessing, selling, transporting or cultivating psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushroom species.

The measure is not currently on the ballot — supporters need to get at least 365,880 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot, according to the Sacramento Bee, a newspaper in Northern California.

Continue reading at LiveScience

‘Magic Mushroom’ Enzyme Mystery Solved

Researchers unravel the biosynthesis of the psychoactive drug psilocybin, making the large-scale production a possibility…

The euphoria and hallucinations induced from eating Psilocybe “magic mushrooms” have earned the fungi a cult following. Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann isolated and determined the structure of psilocybin, the main ingredient in mushrooms that leads to the psychedelic effects, nearly 60 years ago. That discovery and subsequent mind-altering experiments by Harvard University psychologist Timothy F. Leary have left scientists longing to develop a large-scale synthesis of the compound for medical uses, which include treating anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients and treating nicotine addiction. Yet no one has been able to unravel the enzymatic pathway the mushrooms use to make psilocybin, until now.

During their study, Hoffmeister and co-workers sequenced the genomes of two mushroom species to identify the genes that govern the fungal enzymatic production of psilocybin. They further used engineered bacteria and fungi to confirm the gene activity and exact order of synthetic steps. This process includes a newly discovered enzyme that decarboxylates tryptophan, an enzyme that adds a hydroxyl group, an enzyme that catalyzes phosphorylation, and an enzyme that mediates two sequential amine methylation steps. With that knowledge in hand, the team designed a one-pot reaction using three of the enzymes to prepare psilocybin from 4-hydroxy-L-tryptophan.

“The publication by Hoffmeister and colleagues highlights a terrific example of genomics-based biocatalyst-pathway discovery,” adds natural products researcher Jon S. Thorson of the University of Kentucky. “While psilocybin biosynthesis derives from a series of fairly simple chemical transformations, this new study identifies the contributing genes and biocatalysts for the first time and, importantly, provides strong evidence to support a revision of the order of the key steps proposed more than five decades ago. This work clearly sets the stage for bioengineered psilocybin production and/or for analogs that may serve as compelling alternatives to existing synthetic strategies.”

C&En News

Study: Magic mushrooms May Be Among The Safest Illicit Drugs

A GLOBAL study has assessed the health dangers of all illicit drugs, revealing the substances that carry the most – and least – risk.

The study, which canvassed 120,000 people worldwide, found 79.3 per cent of its sample had taken drugs in their lives. Some 37 per cent of respondents had used in the prior month.

By far the most heavily used illegal drug was cannabis, with a 77.8 per cent take-up rate. While the report highlights growing issues caused by newer and purer varieties of drugs, it says more traditional drugs are still a serious cause for concern.

But the Global Drug Survey 2017 study says that if you insist on using illicit substances, perhaps magic mushrooms was the best pick of a bad bunch.

Magic mushrooms came in as the ninth most heavily used illicit drug, with 29.4 per cent of respondents saying it was their drug of choice. Magic mushrooms directly affect serotonin receptors in the brain. Other drugs also stimulate many others. And taking more ‘shrooms doesn’t increase a high — which makes them less addictive.

This is a very real risk as many magic mushroom users tend to scour fields and reserves for varieties growing naturally. The alternative — growing them yourself — is illegal. The Global Drug Survey is administered by an independent research company based in London.

News.com

Scientists Get Religious Leaders High On Magic Mushroom Compound

Commentary: A revolutionary experiment involves seeing whether drugs heighten the religious experience.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are taking a more celestial look at chemically enhanced spiritual uplift.

As the Guardian reports, they’ve brought together a few rabbis, some Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, and a Zen Buddhist to see if doses of psilocybin might enhance their religious fervor.

One of the scientists involved in the study, Dr. William Richards, told the Guardian: “With psilocybin, these profound mystical experiences are quite common. It seemed like a no-brainer that they might be of interest, if not valuable, to clergy.”

How much more productive — or even happier — might we be if, having woken up in a bad mood, we then don a strange headset or patch that suddenly makes us feel at one with the world?

Read the full article at CNET

Horticulturalist Wants Magic Mushrooms Legalised

THE magical effect of magic mushrooms was hailed in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during an application by a horticulturist, who is fighting to have this fungus legalized.

Channelie Vanderberg (corr) turned to the court for a stay of her prosecution in the lower court on charges of possession and cultivating magic, mushrooms, pending a legal challenge in the Western Cape High Court.

But prior to her present employment, while she was living in Pretoria with her estranged husband, they cultivated a range of natural healing plants, which they distributed to the public.

Vandenberg explained that Psilocybin is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic substance found in various types of mushrooms.

“It is known to have therapeutic applications and its use dates back thousands of years where it was used by ancient indigenous cultures around the globe.”

IOL