Recently, I was approached by CNN to discuss the recent proposal to decriminalize psilocybin in the city of Denver, Colorado.
Firstly, I would like to mention that this is a wonderful first step forward in the careful reintegration of these valuable compounds into society.
For editorial reasons, the majority of my responses to the reporter’s questions were not included in the final article. However, I believe that these are important discussions to have, so below is my response…
As the amount of research with psilocybin increases across the world, and more people hear of its significant therapeutic potential, it is only natural that more people are growing curious about it. This growing interest signals that the influence of the aggressive misinformation campaign waged against psychedelics for many decades is finally waning. The easing of the taboo against these psychoactive compounds is to be welcomed since it was negative public perceptions about psychedelics that were central to the obstruction of legitimate scientific research into their potential therapeutic benefits, which has now been clearly demonstrated by researchers, such as myself, and others.
As psilocybin’s legitimacy continues to grow (as this decriminalisation initiative demonstrates), it will become easier to undertake important clinical trials into its numerous potential benefits and thereby hopefully, reduce the enormous suffering caused by psychological illnesses such as depression, addiction and PTSD.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been repeatedly found to be among the least harmful recreational drugs that are used in the modern age; associated with significantly lower toxicity, lower physical harms, and lower rates of emergency medical treatment call outs than other illicit drugs, and indeed alcohol.
However, no drug use is risk-free. A noteworthy risk associated with the use of psilocybin mushrooms is that untrained mushroom foragers may mistake similar-looking, heavily toxic mushrooms for psilocybin species. Decriminalisation would not address this risk, but a regulated legal access market would eliminate this specific risk for users.
It has been recognised that psilocybin, like the other psychedelics, may trigger psychosis in ‘at risk’ individuals. This is why all of the Beckley Foundation’s – and other research organisation’s – clinical and experimental research with psilocybin has excluded participants with a personal or close family history of psychosis. That said, there remains a perception that psychedelics are a cause of mental illness, a claim that is not supported by scientific research. Recent population-level investigations in the US have found that previous use of drugs such as psilocybin is associated with lower levels of mental ill-health.
As the studies undertaken by the Beckley Foundation and others show, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has the potential to completely change the face of psychiatry. Our first study of psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression found that two-thirds of the cohort (who had suffered from depression that could not be treated, for an average of 18 years) were clinically depression-free one week after their second session. We’ve seen similar success with The Johns Hopkins University, finding psilocybin to be more effective than any available treatment for treating tobacco addiction, something which contributes to some 5,000,000 deaths per year worldwide. Other research indicates psilocybin could be used in the treatment of alcohol and opiate addictions, as well as anxiety in terminally ill patients, which can rob people from experiencing any real quality of life in their final days.
Psilocybin for Depression
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