Psilocybin is a psychotropic drug found naturally in various mushrooms. It is now being researched by multiple organizations with FDA support as treatment options for treatment-resistant. depression (TRD) and major depressive disorder (MDD).
Illustration by Nicholas Nerli

Oregon’s decriminalization of drugs makes way for reevaluation of magic mushrooms

The passage of Measure 109 in Oregon means that psilocybin therapy will now be made incrementally available to those suffering from depression, anxiety and addiction. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I substance, which are substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

Psilocybin is more commonly known as magic mushrooms, shrooms or mushrooms. The DEA links psilocybin with the potential to cause psychosis and death. However, a study by the Minister of Health of The Netherlands’ drug assessment and monitoring unit “concluded that the physical and psychological dependence potential of magic mushrooms was low, that acute toxicity was moderate, chronic toxicity low and public health and criminal aspects negligible.”

The effective dose of psilocybin is six milligrams compared to the lethal dose of six grams. These numbers assume that there are no other drugs in the user’s system and that the person is around 154 pounds (70 kilograms). One gram of psilocybe azurescens (one of the most potent psilocybin-containing mushrooms) contains 17.8 milligrams of psilocybin. To get to the lethal dose of six grams you would have to consume 337 grams or about 0.75 pounds. One study in 2016 found that of 12,000 individuals who took psilocybin only 0.2% reported a need for emergency medical treatment. 

Psilocybin is not a naturally addictive drug and has been found in two studies to not increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, attempts or adverse mental-health outcomes. In fact, one of the studies found that individuals who had used psilocybin and LSD had lower rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

A 2018 study published online in Frontiers of Pharmacology hypothesized that the magnitude of the high, Oceanic Boundlessness (OBN), related to a lowered sense of ego. And low Dread of Ego Dissolution (DED), related to acute anxiety would have positive effects on treatment-resistant depression (TRD). The study found that the strength of the OBN and DED effects would better predict long-term positive outcomes. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated psilocybin therapy a breakthrough therapy twice. This is a power the FDA uses to expedite the development of a drug when evidence supports that the drug is substantially better compared to available therapy or clinical endpoints. The FDA has granted breakthrough therapy status to COMPASS Pathways in 2018 for the treatment of TRD and in 2019 to Usona Institute for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).

It is vital to note that psilocybin is a psychoactive drug cited as being a risk factor in the development of  schizophrenia if ingested during young adulthood or teen years. A common theme in studies supporting the benefits of psilocybin often cited the importance of the controlled environment of administering psilocybin and its potentially volatile interactions with alcohol. 

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring drug and, like all drugs, it can be misused, abused and demonized. There is still a lot of research to be done on its effects, as most studies involving the controlled administration of the substance have only experimented with small populations. If you or a loved one is suffering from MDD or TRD in Oregon, ask your doctor whether psilocybin therapy is right for you.

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