Psilocybin is being enthusiastically embraced by mainstream psychiatry and even The New York Times refers to it as “the hottest new therapeutic since Prozac.” Scientists around the world are eagerly studying it as a potential treatment for clinical depression, OCD, problematic addictions, anxiety and much more. But can psilocybin really free people from destructive thoughts, bad behaviours, and health-harming addictions? The simple answer for some is: Yes. Yes, it can.
An article published in The Atlantic on “theathlantic.com,” tells the story of an American woman who had been a smoker since she was 12, who decided not to be one any longer. She agreed to take medication (a pill) and be a participant in an addiction study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Shortly after swallowing the pill, and under the watchful eyes of trained health professionals, she began to hallucinate.
The addiction study researchers were investigating was to determine whether highly addictive nicotine might be overpowered by the pull of another drug: psilocybin—the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms.
After a series of three psilocybin test sessions, the woman left the addiction lab and never smoked again. Prior to the study, when she felt overwhelmed by the stresses of life, she would feel compelled to smoke as a coping mechanism. “But now, I can just cross that off my list. I don’t have to do it,” said the confident and newly-empowered woman.
The nicotine addiction study had 15 participants and 12 of them were able to quit smoking after taking psilocybin—a much greater success rate than any other method. Matthew Johnson, lead author of the addiction study and an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins became interested in psilocybin when he first read of the success of using LSD to treat alcoholics in some 1960’s medical studies. He decided that psilocybin was preferable because it’s shorter-acting, has fewer side effects or addictive properties.
Rapidly Expanding Field of Psychedelic Medicine
After decades of proscription, psychedelic drugs are now being embraced by mainstream psychiatry for the treatment of mental disorders and addiction. Shortly after a New England Journal of Medicine study highlighted the benefits of treating depression with psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, scientists and psychotherapists are eagerly researching ground-breaking advances in the rapidly expanding field of psychedelic medicine.
Even The New York Times reported that “Psilocybin and MDMA are poised to be the hottest new therapeutics since Prozac.” Psilocybin is currently being studied in Canada for its potential to treat various conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and problematic drug use.
Studies are underway around the world to see if psilocybin or other hallucinogens, might provide relief from anything from mental illness to the debilitating anxieties suffered by terminally-ill cancer patients.
According to Professor Johnson at Johns Hopkins, “depression and addiction both involve a narrowing of vision—a tunnel that it takes a profound experience to suck someone out of. Psilocybin, he says, can foster something called cross-talk between regions of the brain that don’t normally communicate. Cross-talk, in turn, is associated with novel ways of looking at problems. The hallucinators see the contents of their minds spread out before them, like dusty old knick-knacks brought up from the basement and strewn out in the front yard.” 1
He states furthermore that while participants are tripping, they’re “dealing with stuff they haven’t dealt with in years or decades, people reflect on their childhood, their parents, their siblings, all their relationships, their love life, their current relationships. Colors are brighter. The walls might be waving. There might be a halo around things,” he continued.
Carl Jung once said that “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” But for most people who eventually become addicted, the process is benign. Take smoking for example, it might start out as a ritual stress-reliever that’s partly-social—a daily coffee and cigarette break with a colleague becomes something to look forward to—until the cigarette turns into a habit, then a bit of a crutch before becoming a full-blown addiction. But that’s the process, what really creates an addict? What makes an addict start to smoke? What is the motivation? “People will recognize this profound self-worth that they’ve dismissed,” said Professor Johnson. “They look at their life and see themselves as a miracle.”
The smoker from the beginning of the story recounted her experience on psilocybin: “My spirit soared. I had this great vision of rising above and being a goddess,” she said. “She saw her worries like ants in the distance: Her abusive father; the air-conditioning unit where she would hide from her family and smoke.” 2
Indeed, inherent to tripping on psilocybin seems to be a sense of spiritualism or mysticism. In a study entitled: “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” by R. R. Griffiths, W. A. Richards,
U. McCann and R. Jesse, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the authors concluded: “When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.” A
Eleven of Professor Johnson’s 12 addiction study subjects rated their psilocybin trip among “the five most spiritually significant experiences in their lives. Some considered it a crash-course in mindfulness, or years of therapy crammed into a single day.” 3
Johnson cautions that his results shouldn’t make people rush out and take mushrooms to cure any ailment and also that his study was tightly controlled and guided. “Mushrooms and other hallucinogens carry the risk of ‘behavioral toxicity’ (the scientific term for trying dangerous feats while high).” 4
The findings of the R.R. Griffiths, et al. study echo Professor Johnson’s observations that people are able to recognize their own profound self-worth on psilocybin. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” they study authors concluded that “The present double-blind study shows that psilocybin, when administered under comfortable, structured, interpersonally supported conditions to volunteers who reported regular participation in religious or spiritual activities, occasioned experiences which had marked similarities to classic mystical experiences and which were rated by volunteers as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance. Furthermore, the volunteers attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior that were consistent with changes rated by friends and family.” B
Indeed, that’s why Pharmer’s Market wants to provide Canadians with a passionate and dedicated community, medical research updates, and a trustworthy marketplace to purchase the highest-quality mushrooms as well as to provide information and advice about the transformative power of psilocybin.
1, 2, 3, 4 “Live Every Day Like You’re on Mushrooms: Hallucinogens may help people break free of destructive thoughts and addiction. Can a “mystical experience” be had legally?” By Olga Khazan, with contributions by Jeremy Raff. The Atlantic. June 17, 2016
A, B “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” R. R. Griffiths & W. A. Richards & U. McCann & R. Jesse. Psychopharmacology. Received: 20 January 2006 /Accepted: 27 May 2006