Legislation proposed in Arizona would provide millions of dollars in grant funding to expand research into psilocybin––the primary psychoactive component in magic mushrooms––as a potential treatment for certain mental health conditions.
The bill, introduced by a Republican lawmaker and backed by Democrats, “would put $30 million in grants over three years toward clinical trials using whole-mushroom psilocybin to treat mental health conditions like depression and PTSD,” the Arizona Mirror reports.
The outlet reports that one of the bill’s biggest backers is Dr. Sue Sisely, an internal medicine physician who believes that psilocybin treatment could be a boon for ailing military veterans.
“It’s curbed their suicidality, it’s put their PTSD into remission, it’s even mitigated their pain syndromes,” Sisely said of patients she has seen benefit from psilocybin, as quoted by the Arizona Mirror. “It’s shown evidence of promoting neurogenesis (the growth and development of nerve tissue). There’s all kinds of great things that are being uncovered, but they’re not in controlled trials—they’re anecdotes from veterans and other trauma sufferers.”
According to the Mirror, “so far the only controlled trials on psilocybin to treat medical conditions have used a synthetic, one-molecule version of the substance, which is vastly different from a whole mushroom, which contains hundreds of compounds.”
“These agricultural products are very complex, and that is what people are reporting benefit from,” Sisley told the Arizona Mirror. “Nobody in the world has access to synthetic psilocybin unless you’re in one of these big pharma trials.”
In the last decade, psilocybin has gone from the fringes to the mainstream, as researchers and policymakers have grown more amenable to mushrooms as an effective treatment for a variety of different disorders.
It has also become the next frontier for drug legalization advocates, as states like Arizona consider measures that would expand its usage.
To the north of the Grand Canyon State, advocates in Utah have launched a campaign to push legislators to legalize psilocybin for clinical and academic purposes.
“Numerous robust studies have shown that psilocybin therapy is beneficial in reducing treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health disorders. It is more effective than synthetic pharmaceuticals by a large margin. Psilocybin has also shown effectiveness in easing fear and anxiety in people with terminal cancer. For instance, a groundbreaking study performed by John Hopkins Medicine found that psilocybin reported better moods and greater mental health after participating in a single clinical dose,” Utah Mushroom Therapy, the group behind the campaign, says in a statement.
The group is looking to gin up public support for the treatment after the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, signed a bill last year establishing a task force that will study psilocybin as a mental health treatment.
Utah Mushroom Therapy says that, in the wake of the task force, “legalizing and decriminalizing Psilocybin in Utah is now very likely but still needs public support.”
“The use of mushrooms has been documented in 15 indigenous groups in America and various religious communities in Utah. This petition supports those groups who wish to use psilocybin safely, sincerely, and as a necessary part of their religion. The use of psilocybin does not contradict other Utah cultures and is protected by the first amendment as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This petition is to advocate Utah law to protect the religious rights of Utahns,” the group says.
“Psilocybin is a natural, non-toxic substance. Despite this, it is currently a Schedule I substance. Scientists have demonstrated it has profound medicinal value and believe serotonergic hallucinogens assist cognitive processes and should be decriminalized. Psychedelics can change perception and mood, help people soften their perspective and outlook, and process events that may otherwise lead to substance abuse, trauma, and criminal behavior,” it continues.