The Science of Magic Mushrooms


A study debuts today in the journal Psychopharmacology on the possible beneficial effects of psychedelic mushrooms; the Los Angeles Times reports:

Using the active ingredient in illegal hallucinogenic mushrooms, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have induced a lingering sense of spirituality that they believe has the potential to help patients struggling with addiction or terminal cancer.

Researchers said that the 36 subjects in the tightly controlled experiment–none of whom had ever taken the drug before–already had deep religious convictions, which primed them for a mystical experience.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse [NIDA] and the Council on Spiritual Practices, a Berkeley-based organization that studies drugs and spirituality, funded the research.

The researchers sought out previously psychedelic-free "well-educated middle-aged people" in the Baltimore area–and spent six years finding 36 subjects, who tripped while listening to "classical music in comfortable rooms" with a "trained monitor" present to guide them.

Two-thirds of them described their drug trip as among the five most profound events in their lives, rivaling the birth of a child.

That feeling lasted up to a year in some cases.

MAPS–the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies–which advocates and helps organize such legal research into psychedelics, provides a good link roundup of coverage of the study, including NIDA's director claiming that the researchers went off on the psyilocibin tangent without explicit NIDA approval, and the Wall Street Journal's detailed account, complete with a time chart of Western culture's relationship with magic mushrooms.

MAPS paints this research as successor to the most famous research study of the links between mushrooms and spirituality, Harvard's "Good Friday Experiment" by Walter Pahkne, which also involved the notorious Dr. Timothy Leary. May this be only the beginning of a new wave of freedom to research forbidden substances and their mysterious and intricate effects on the human mind, personality, and emotions. Here is more info via MAPS on other ongoing research projects involving psilocybin and LSD.