Psychedelic mushrooms are becoming an increasingly popular alternative health route for many people. After Oregon and other cities such as Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz decriminalized psilocybin and legalized it for therapeutic use, more people are realizing the different health benefits that psychedelic therapy offers.
Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound active in mushrooms that activates serotonin receptors, leading to improved mood regulation and happiness. For centuries, humans have indulged in different psychedelic mushrooms for ritual use, but today, more and more people are using them for medicinal purposes.
According to Healthline, the psilocybin in mushrooms has served as an alternative method of dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, and cancer-related illnesses for years, and people continue using it today.
As research progresses and more people become aware of the benefits of psychedelic treatment, doors are beginning to open in the psychedelic industry. The steady growth of research gives hope to supporters that more states will decriminalize psychedelic treatment in the near future.
Groundbreaking Research into Psychedelic Treatment
Filament Health, a clinical-stage natural psychedelic drug development company, aims to help grow the knowledge surrounding psychedelic treatment. In two weeks, they will become the first research company to administer natural botanical psilocin in a clinical trial. They’re also the first research company to receive FDA approval for a clinical trial of the effectiveness of botanical psilocin. The trial will be done in partnership with an expert team from The University of California San Francisco and will occur on their campus.
Filament Health plans to examine if natural psilocin offers health benefits and whether it is more beneficial than synthetic psilocybin. “The natural world is the best place to look for psychedelic candidates,” says Ben Lightburn, the CEO and Co-Founder of Filament Health.
Subjects will undergo a randomized dosage of psilocin, psilocybin, or will receive a placebo. After going through the experience, they will answer questions about different emotional aspects such as loneliness and social isolation, along with many others.
After receiving their dosage of a psychedelic treatment, subjects will be asked to go into a state where they can visualize trauma from the past. The hope is that subjects will disassociate from reality and leave with a sense of closure and relief by the end of their psychedelic experience.
Lightburn has ample experience working with botanical extracts and feels he has a duty to initiate work in psychedelic research. “It’s affecting society, and I think that’s enough of a problem,” he says.
Lightburn believes that misguided historical attempts to stigmatize psychedelics have left a lasting impression on people’s thoughts. “The status quo that they’ve been led to believe is false,” he says.
The clinical trial will take eight to 12 months to complete, with plans to publish the final report two years afterward. Lightburn and his team are hopeful that this trial will serve as evidence that natural psilocin can be used as an alternative treatment option.
Research on Real-World Use of Psychedelics
Another psychedelic research group looking to gain more knowledge about psychedelic treatment is Unlimited Sciences. Formed in 2018 by Heather Jackson, Unlimited Sciences has a goal to create the world’s largest collection of real-world data surrounding psychedelics. They hope to use this resource to develop an understanding of how to use psychedelics safely and effectively.
In 2018, Unlimited Sciences partnered with John Hopkins University, the largest psilocybin registry in the world, to conduct an observational research study on psychedelic treatment.
Their research study, which began in 2020 and concluded in May 2022, was conducted entirely online with over 8,000 subjects enrolled. “Almost all individuals are using psilocybin outside of a lab setting, so it’s incredibly important to understand what’s happening in real-world settings and observe the health outcomes related to that,” says Matthew Lowe Ph.D., Research Director at Unlimited Sciences.
The study consisted of five phases that subjects had to go through. First, potential subjects applied online and reported their intent to use psilocybin within the next six months.
Two weeks prior to taking the psilocybin, subjects completed a survey of baseline recordings, allowing Unlimited Sciences to understand where the subjects were mentally before taking their dosage. On the day of the psilocybin session, subjects completed a brief survey on the ‘state of surrender scale,’ which evaluates whether a person is open to a psilocybin experience.
Immediately after their session, participants took a follow-up survey that covered information about their set and setting (‘set; is an individual’s mindset, and ‘setting’ refers to their physical and social environment) dose, and other factors related to their experience. Participants completed follow-up surveys 2-4 weeks after their session and took a final survey two to three months following their experience. These surveys tracked changes over time in personality, wellbeing, depression, sleep, trauma, cognitive flexibility, drug use disorder, alcohol use disorder, and many other behaviors. “The idea here was to use as many different standardized measurements as we could in the field to understand psilocybin’s different health outcomes in a number of different ways,” Lowe says.
Although there are limitations to performing remote research, such as the memory and accuracy of individuals reporting their data, the major benefit of this style is that the researchers were able to evaluate a large number of individuals. There were also no regulations on the study since subjects took the dosage of their own accord.
Lowe believes that it is important for people to educate themselves on the different health benefits of psychedelic mushrooms, and that Unlimited Sciences’ observational study will help further the understanding of the alternative treatment. “We’re seeing boundless opportunities to help individuals,” he says.
Some of the people that can be helped most through psychedelic treatment are those with treatment-resistant depression, meaning that they do not respond to known medications or therapy. “Psychedelic therapy seems to be doing something very different than traditional treatments [for depression] in a way that is really having profound implications,” says Lowe.
Unlimited Sciences is currently analyzing the data from this study, with plans to publish the results of their research by the end of 2022.
The Future of Psychedelic Treatment
As the psychedelic industry continues to evolve, more people are learning about the different health benefits of psychedelic treatment. Research studies, such as those conducted by Filament Health and Unlimited Sciences, will help to educate people on this important topic.
Even though stigma surrounding psychedelics still exists, figures in the industry, such as Lightburn and Lowe, are hopeful that increased education and understanding will drive psychedelic treatment into a bright future.