A study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison is attempting to learn more about how humans react to psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms.
Researchers have been working with a dozen subjects for almost a year, administering ever-increasing doses of the psychedelic and taking blood and urine samples while measuring heart activity to learn more about how the body processes the substance.
Subjects are not eating mushrooms; rather, the psilocybin is administered in pill form. All the participants have had previous experience with psychedelics so they are prepared for the altered state of consciousness and don’t disrupt the clinical setting.
Guides sit with the participants before they take the pill and throughout the entire experience. The subjects have the option to wear eye-shades, listen to comforting music using headphones and enjoy some snacks while under the effects of the psilocybin.
One participant reported that the psilocybin helped him figure out how to better connect with his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. In subsequent sessions, he began to understand his connection to the entire human race. “We joined hands and jumped off. At that point consciousness ended, reality ended, ego ended,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Long considered taboo, formal scientific knowledge about psychedelics is slowing growing. Several other studies are ongoing or have been performed in recent years on using psilocybin to treat anxiety in cancer patients, including at New York University, Johns Hopkins University and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Participants in the studies have spoken about the immense gratitude they felt for life after their experience and how they felt more connected to the universe.
“Psilocybin seems to help significantly more people get to that magic place where they find peace,” University of Wisconsin oncologist Toby Campbell said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “There’s a remarkable amount of living that can happen while dying that is frankly impeded by anxiety, depression and sadness.”
Unlike the three previous studies, however, the research at Wisconsin is focusing on healthy subjects so doctors can better understand how the human body metabolizes psilocybin. Furthermore, the Wisconsin study is actively monitoring the vital signs of participants while they are under the effect of the psychedelic. Subjects are hooked up to an IV line, a blood pressure cuff and ECG pads so observers can measure exactly how the body is reacting.
Although currently psilocybin is considered a Schedule I substance by the United States Federal Government, classified as a dangerous drug with no medical value, studies like the ones mentioned above are important steps in showing that the psychedelic is not harmful and does have important medicinal uses. Patients have reported mushrooms and their active ingredient have been helpful in treating mental disorders like anxiety, depression and PTSD, even in cases where conventional therapy has failed.
Advocates hope that this research could culminate in a large-scale study on the use of psilocybin on cancer patients in the near future.
With evidence mounting about the beneficial effects of the psychedelic, there could be a day when the government is forced to acknowledge reality and loosen the reigns of prohibition, finally allowing countless people access to a potentially life-changing medicine.