What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin, which is found in psychedelic mushrooms, is a Schedule I controlled substance. It can also be synthetically produced in laboratories. In the body, psilocybin can be converted into psilocin, which binds to serotonin receptors and alters brain chemistry.
Trials are currently underway to test the effects of psilocybin on treatment-resistant depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms, or psychedelic mushrooms. It can also be synthetically produced. The compound itself has been used in many cultures and religions throughout history as a way to explore alternative states of consciousness and other realms of being. Psilocybin is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture.
What are the effects of psilocybin on people for treatment?
Those who have ingested psilocybin mushrooms may report a variety of effects, the most popular being feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and calmness. But it’s not just people using these drugs for recreation that feel these effects—psychiatrists and psychologists also prescribe doses to patients suffering from depression or anxiety.
The first scientific study on psilocybin was conducted by a psychiatrist named Albert Hofmann in 1958. He administered psilocybin to two volunteer test subjects in his lab at Sandoz AG (now part of Novartis). The first subject had been hospitalized for a few years after experiencing severe anxiety attacks, and the second had been recently diagnosed with clinical depression. In the course of the experimental procedure, both reported feeling an initial burst of euphoria as well as loss of sense perception. Afterward they felt greatly relieved and began to feel love towards others and developed feelings of closeness to nature. Although they expected them after seeing the other patient react with joy in response to his own dose, neither realized that they were reacting similarly to what they thought was their body high.
More research has since been done on psilocybin’s therapeutic uses, but very little is known about how this drug affects different people over time or if dosage can cause serious side effects such as addiction or psychosis, especially in those who are already predisposed toward psychological problems such as anxiety disorders or borderline personality disorder. Because recreational use can also lead to addiction or psychosis under certain circumstances (such as predisposition), doctors generally regulate dosage when prescribing it for treatment purposes so that it doesn’t become addictive or cause psychological damage when used recreationally by those not seeking treatment for serious issues.
What is psilocybin used to treat?
- Cancer-related distress
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Psilocybin is not just for treating these diagnoses. It’s also showing promise in being a more effective way of treating mental illness in general, according to Dr. Stephen Ross, an associate professor at NYU Langone Health and the director of the NYU Psilocybin Project.
Why might you want to enroll in a psilocybin clinical trial?
The most obvious reason you might want to enroll is that you are interested in helping advance medical knowledge. Many thousands of people have taken advantage of clinical trials because they wanted to help find cures for diseases and conditions. If this is your primary reason, you’re in luck.
Another good reason to participate is that it can give you access to treatment before it is publicly available or even before treatment has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although there are no guarantees, this may be your only way to try a promising new treatment before everyone else can access it.
A third great motivation for participating in clinical trials is altruism; if you have an illness or condition that may potentially be helped by a trial medication, it could provide a great opportunity for getting treated.
Clinical trials are an opportunity to contribute to research and to have new treatment options.
Most people have heard the terms “clinical trial” and “drug trial” used interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. In a clinical trial, researchers are testing a drug or treatment on healthy participants to see if it’s effective and safe. On the other hand, you might hear of a clinical study as just a shorter version of “research.” A research study often involves testing new drugs or treatments on patients who are already sick with an illness (like cancer), to gather data that can then be used to inform future treatment options for those individuals affected by these diseases.