President Trump’s opioid response plan might have multiple prongs, but when he unveiled it Monday, he clearly was most interested in the prong that gets “very tough” on drug dealers. We know this because he said so approximately 5,000 times during a speech announcing the new plan in New Hampshire, a state chosen as the backdrop because it is one of those hardest hit by opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
Trump’s get-tough approach is little more than a reboot of the failed “War on Drugs” from the 1980s, in which the federal government spent enormous sums trying — and failing — to stop the crack cocaine crisis by throwing people in prison, a disproportionate amount of whom were African American and Latino.
His first speech on the topic in October, while vague, promised action on this “public health emergency.” A few days later the commission he convened to study the problem and come up with evidence-based solutions released a 131-page report with 56 recommendations, none of which suggested killing people.
Read the full article in Los Angeles Times
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
“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’.