Suspended for decades after controversial results, research on the hallucinogen psilocybin is showing early promise in a new series of small studies.
In research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), scientists highlighted the latest findings on the use of psilocybin, the synthetic version of the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” as a treatment for anxiety in terminal cancer patients, in smoking cessation and as a treatment for alcoholism.
Some of the studies are not complete and have not yet been reviewed by other experts, but they provide new information on psilocybin’s effects.
Psilocybin is the active ingredient in over 100 species of mushrooms in the Psilocybe class, used for hundreds of years in shamanic ceremonies and other rituals in South America.
Like previous psychedelic experimenters, today’s volunteers often report profoundly mystical experiences. But modern researchers are far more careful about documenting what the drugs actually do, avoiding the exaggerated claims of early pioneers in the field (including Harvard University’s Timothy Leary), which led to more skepticism and criticism than productive investigation.