There's A Case For Non-Medical Psilocybin

The star of the quickly growing plant-based medicine field is currently the mushroom – specifically, the psilocybin mushroom. It’s being touted as a treatment for drug-resistant depression and addiction. Clinics are being discussed as places to administer doses of psilocybin, but it seems the non-medical use has been brushed under the rug. A new study explores the case for non-medical psilocybin.

The results published by Psychopharmacology (2020) and led by Carbonaro, T.M., Johnson, M.W. & Griffiths, R.R. studied the subjective features of the psilocybin experience that may account for its self-administration by humans. The test was a double-blind comparison of psilocybin and dextromethorphan (DXM).

Study Results

The researchers were determined to figure out why people wanted to take psilocybin for non-medical uses more than they wanted to take DXM. The study consisted of a single, acute oral dose of psilocybin (10, 20, 30 mg/70 kg), DXM (400 mg/70 kg), and placebo were administered under double-blind conditions to 20 healthy participants with histories of hallucinogen use.

According to the researchers, high doses of both drugs produced similar time courses and increases in participant ratings of peak overall drug effect strength. Nine subjective effect domains are proposed to be related to the reinforcing effects of psilocybin: liking, visual effects, positive mood, insight, positive social effects, increased awareness of beauty (both visual and music), awe/amazement, meaningfulness, and mystical experience.

For most ratings, (1) psilocybin and DXM both produced effects significantly greater than placebo; (2) psilocybin showed dose-related increases; 3, DXM was never significantly higher than psilocybin; (4) the two highest psilocybin doses were significantly greater than DXM. These differences were consistent with two measures of desire to take the drug condition again.

Supported By Other Mystical Measurements

The nine subjective effect domains that psilocybin users experience has been supported by other studies. It was validated in an article published in 2015 by Johns Hopkins Researchers. The researchers took a 30-item revised Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30) that was previously developed within an online survey of mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin-containing mushrooms. The rated experiences occurred on average eight years before completion of the questionnaire. Their work validates the MEQ30 using data from experimental studies with controlled doses of psilocybin.

The article read as follows: Data were pooled and analyzed from five laboratory experiments in which participants (n=184) received a moderate to high oral dose of psilocybin (at least 20 mg/70 kg). Results of confirmatory factor analysis demonstrate the reliability and internal validity of the MEQ30. Structural equation models demonstrate the external and convergent validity of the MEQ30 by showing that latent variable scores on the MEQ30 positively predict persisting change in attitudes, behavior, and well-being attributed to experiences with psilocybin while controlling for the contribution of the participant-rated intensity of drug effects.

These findings support the use of the MEQ30 as an efficient measure of individual mystical experiences. A method to score a “complete mystical experience” that was used in previous versions of the mystical experience questionnaire is validated in the MEQ30, and a stand-alone version of the MEQ30 is provided for use in future research.

Final Thoughts

Like marijuana legalization, the case for medical use will no doubt push forward the argument for decriminalization and legalization. It is far easier to convince lawmakers of a medical case for legislation versus a mystical experience argument. However, the industry would be remiss to dismiss the non-medical use for psilocybin.

Debra Borchardt

Debra BorchardtDebra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-In-Chief of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Masters degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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