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

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