The medical usage of psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms,” is gaining popularity, accompanied by a “wild west” of clinics in Canada and the United States.
Research on the clinical use of psychedelics in the treatment of depression, addiction, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses has revived in the last decade.
The National Institute of Health in the United States has given Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine its first federal grant for psychedelic treatment in more than 50 years.
More than $4 million was awarded to Johns Hopkins researchers, as well as academics from New York University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to examine the use of psilocybin and psychotherapy to assist individuals to stop smoking.
In a preliminary trial, 9 of 15 persons who had previously failed to stop smoking were able to quit and keep it off for 2.5 years after receiving psilocybin-assisted treatment.
The “highly introspective experiences” linked with psilocybin, according to senior author Matthew Johnson, appear to promote mental flexibility and openness to change, as well as lower irritation and cravings in those quitting smoking.
Sanjay Singhal, a digital entrepreneur, and venture financier, recently announced that Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) will build a psychedelic psychotherapy research center with $5 million in funding.
Psychedelics have the potential for difficult-to-treat diseases including posttraumatic stress disorder and end-of-life suffering, according to Dr. Susan Abbey, psychiatrist-in-chief at UHN. “Every major academic mental health center in the world is attempting to undertake research in psychedelics, particularly psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy,” she told CTV News.
After creating the post last summer, the University of Calgary is undertaking an international search for Canada’s first psychedelic research chair.
Dr. Valerie Taylor, a psychiatrist, and clinician-researcher at the University of Calgary told The Globe and Mail that the next stage in winning over regulators is to improve the quality of psychedelic research.
Most studies to date have been tiny and “haven’t been really structured to carry weight with regulatory agencies,” she added. “We want to take it to the next level,” says the group.
Last year, Oregon became the first state in the United States to authorize the use of psilocybin for the treatment of mental illnesses under medical supervision.
Psilocybin and MDMA have both been identified as “breakthrough” therapy for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, respectively, by the US Food and Drug Administration, indicating that the agency is open to licensing formulations of the medicines that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective.
Despite the fact that psilocybin is still illegal in Canada, the federal government has begun to provide legal exemptions, usually to those who are dying or have treatment-resistant depression.
Meanwhile, in their efforts to widen access to psilocybin, corporations and proponents for legalization appear to be taking a page from the cannabis playbook.
Companies like Schroom Room and Canada Mushrooms are openly offering psilocybin drugs online, while dispensaries in big cities like Vancouver are selling it over the counter.
Despite the fact that authorities appear to be ignoring these activities, some dispensary owners claim that they wish to pursue legal action in order to bring the issue of decriminalization before the courts.
Dana Larsen, owner of the Coca Leaf Care & Mushroom Dispensary in Vancouver, believes the number of retail stores selling psilocybin will explode in the coming years, just like the number of cannabis dispensaries did before legalization.
Other businesses, such as Field Trip Health, are establishing private clinics to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy using FDA-approved medications like ketamine.
In anticipation of medicinal authorization, businesses are racing to have their own psilocybin formulations ready for the market. Compass Pathways has received the first patent for a synthetic version of psilocybin that isn’t intended for clinical usage.
According to one study conducted by Data Bridge Market Research, the potential market for psychedelics would reach $7 billion by 2027.