Scientific American takes a look at the growing use of the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms to treat all manner of mental health issues:
Magic mushrooms are undergoing a transformation from illicit recreational drug to promising mental health treatment. Numerous studies have reported positive findings using psilocybin—the mushrooms’ main psychoactive compound—for treating depression as well as smoking and alcohol addiction, and for reducing anxiety in the terminally ill. Ongoing and planned studies are testing the drug for conditions that include opioid dependence, PTSD and anorexia nervosa.
This scientific interest, plus growing social acceptance, is contributing to legal changes in cities across the U.S. In 2020 Oregon passed statewide legislation decriminalizing magic mushrooms, and the state is building a framework for regulating legal therapeutic use—becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to do so. For now psilocybin remains illegal and strictly controlled at the national level in most countries, slowing research. But an international push to get the drug reclassified aims to lower barriers everywhere.
After a flurry of research in the 1950s and 1960s, psilocybin and all other psychedelics were abruptly banned, partly in response to their embrace by the counterculture. Following the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, psilocybin was classed in the U.S. as a Schedule I substance—defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Psilocybin production was limited, and a host of administrative and financial burdens effectively ended study for decades. “It’s the worst censorship of research in history,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London.