Legal Use of Hallucinogenic Magic Mushrooms
On January 1, Oregon legalized the adult use of Psilocybin, often called “Magic Mushrooms,” amid recent research showing tentative promise for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, end-of-life anxiety, and other mental health conditions. However, while research suggests promising results for mental health treatment, there are still concerns about the lasting side effects of Psilocybin misuse, as there is not enough data yet to measure the lasting impacts.
Oregon’s Ballot Measure 109, passed in November 2020, allows the Oregon Health Authority to license and regulate the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of Psilocybin products and to oversee Psilocybin services. These Psilocybin service centers allow anyone over 21 to consume these mushrooms with supervision, as drug-induced episodes can last several hours. However, the recent legalization of Psilocybin Mushroom use does not extend to recreational use or retail sale. Additionally, the substance’s consumption must occur at a licensed service center with supervision.
What Are Magic Mushrooms?
A sacred medicine in many indigenous groups, Psilocybin Mushrooms have long been used in religious and spiritual ceremonies in South America and Mesopotamia. Psilocybin Mushrooms include over 200 mushroom species that contain the psychoactive components Psilocybin and Psilocin, which produce similar effects as LSD. Individuals can take these mushrooms in multiple ways, including snorted as a powder, consumed as a pill, eaten raw or cooked, or mixed in a beverage.
Individuals who take Psilocybin Mushrooms experience hallucinations and altered states of consciousness, which can last for several hours. However, the potency of Magic Mushrooms vary from species to species, and each individual can respond differently. This variance in outcomes can lead to serious side effects.
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Psilocybin Research Findings
Psilocybin research spans the past several decades, focusing on Magic Mushrooms treatment for mental health conditions and substance abuse. Researchers at multiple universities, including the University of New Mexico, the University of Arizona, New York University, and John Hopkins University, looked into the viability of Psilocybin treatment.
Psilocybin and other psychedelics are thought to promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, recognize, or adapt neural networks. Substance abuse and mental health researchers are interested in this concept of Psilocybin-derived neuroplasticity as it may give patients a new perspective on their substance abuse or mental health concerns. Researchers of a small study on alcohol use disorder (AUD) found that 2 doses of Psilocybin Mushrooms led to an 83% decrease in heavy drinking. At the end of the 8-month study, nearly half of the participants had stopped drinking entirely.
Researchers are also interested in Psilocybin-based treatment for treatment-resistant depression. Over 8 million people in the US take medication to treat depression, and a 2021 study estimates that medicine doesn’t help nearly a third of them, meaning they are “treatment-resistant.” In November, one of the most extensive studies of Psilocybin treatment found that a 25 mg dose of Psilocybin, given alongside psychotherapy, reduced depression symptoms 3 weeks after treatment. An important note for clinical Psilocybin research is that many trials include psychotherapy for individuals in conjunction with Psilocybin Mushrooms.
The Dangers Of Psilocybin Use
Magic Mushrooms produce various short-term mental and physical effects, including a heightened sense of emotions and hallucinations. Hallucinations distort an individual’s sense of reality, time, and senses. Additional adverse mental side effects of Psilocybin use include:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Fear or paranoia
- Swift mood changes
Beyond mental side effects, there are multiple physical effects, including:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Numbness (particularly in the face)
- Loss of urinary control
While we know the short-term effects of Psilocybin Mushroom use, there are no clinical results on the long-term effects of continual Psilocybin use. However, as Magic Mushrooms receive medical attention and research, hopefully, results will follow. What is known is that continual use of Psilocybin Mushrooms can result in tolerance, where an individual will need more of the substance to feel the desired effects. Also, using Magic Mushrooms with substances like Marijuana, Amphetamines, or alcohol can elevate the risks of severe side effects.
An additional risk of Psilocybin use is a “bad trip,” which is when an individual takes a higher dose and experiences frightening imagery, paranoia, and a distorted sense of self. Impaired judgment during these “bad trips” may lead to risk-taking behavior, leading to traumatic injuries or even death. Sometimes, individuals may experience frequent or overly intense psychedelic events known as “flashbacks,” where they relive the previous experience.
Future Of Psilocybin Mushroom Treatment
In the state of Oregon, while Magic Mushroom treatment sessions are available in licensed centers, the issue of affordability is front and center. Since the federal government lists Psilocybin Mushrooms as a Schedule 1 substance with “no currently accepted medical use,” Psilocybin sessions will not be covered by insurance. One session could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for residents. So, while Psilocybin Mushroom treatment may yield positive outcomes, if the service is unaffordable, it will bar many from pursuing this treatment.
The future of Psilocybin Mushroom treatment is still unfolding, and more clinical research is underway to determine the viability of Magic Mushrooms as a treatment for mental health conditions and substance use disorders (SUDs).
As we await clinical research results, there are current, vetted treatment options for mental health concerns and SUDs. Treatment options can include psychotherapy, online therapy, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and additional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).