Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fungi Makes for Fun Guys

by Leane Scoz

Psilocybin mushrooms, a.k.a. shrooms, magic mushrooms, boomers, can be traced back a million years, originating in East Africa. The fungi have been widely eaten by Europeans and Native Americans in Central and South America since the late 18th century. Psychedelic mushrooms eventually made their way to the United States and became a popular recreational drug during the 1960s with the advent of the hippie era.

The use of psychedelic mushrooms is subjective and unpredictable. The hallucinogenic experience can produce effects that are physical, sensory, emotional, and psychological. Although their consumption is illegal in most countries, including the United States, shrooms have been the subject of several psychedelic research projects in recent years.

A 2006 press release from Johns Hopkins University outlined a rigorous scientific study involving 36 college educated men and women and showed how the mushrooms produced mystical/spiritual experiences for research subjects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the research marked a new systematic approach to studying certain hallucinogenic compounds and showed signs of therapeutic potential and value in research into the nature of consciousness and sensory perception.

A recent Associated Press article summarized a report published on July 1, 2008 in the Journal of Pharmacology that provided follow-up to the initial study. The report showed that more than 60 percent of the research subjects reported substantial increases in life satisfaction since the psilocybin experiment. The volunteers reported feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible, and optimistic. They also indicated that they felt more sensitive, tolerant, loving and compassionate since their hallucinogenic research experience.

According to a Newsweek article related to the same research project, the study of hallucinogenic compounds is and has always been controversial despite their potential to reveal secrets of the conscious mind. This is largely due to the federal government's decision to make hallucinogenic drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD, illegal in the 1960s after heavy persuasion by the media. Psychedelic research is not easily funded or sponsored and, until these recent published findings, this type of research has been difficult to legitimize.

Why do scientists continue to pursue this avenue of research? Because of the findings in research projects such as the Johns Hopkins experiment, psilocybin has shown promise in treating conditions including Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders (OCSD), anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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