Magic mushrooms have been used ritually by the native people of Mesoamerica for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the 1950s, R. Gordon Wasson and his wife traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico and participated in a mushroom ritual. That experience led to a 1957 Life magazine article titled "Seeking the Magic Mushroom." The following year, the Swiss scientist Albert Hofman, who had been the first to synthesize LSD in 1938, identified psilocybin and psilocin as the active compounds in magic mushrooms. In 1960, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert founded the Harvard Psilocybin Project to study the effects of psilocybin on humans. Harvard University famously fired Leary and Alpert in 1963.
Serious study of magic mushrooms essentially ended when the compounds psilocybin and psylocin were listed as Schedule I drugs in 1971. However, people around the world have used magic mushrooms with the goals of expanding consciousness and achieving spiritual growth ever since it was popularized by the hippies in the the 1960s.
Despite its illegal status, researchers have once again started studying the effects of psilocybin on humans. The results so far have been intriguing. ReasonTV caught up with Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University and Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London at the Psychedelic Science 2013 conference in Oakland, CA to learn what's happening at the cutting edge of psilocybin research.
Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.
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