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Overview of “Pilot” Psychedelic Studies: Issue #2

Overview of “Pilot” Psychedelic Studies: Issue #2

I’ve already explained the essence of this column. Official science is cumbersome. It may take years for a discovery to be confirmed. Several large-scale studies, dozens of co-authored publications with eminent scientists, and other bureaucratic trimmings are required. Yes, this is not only a tribute to tradition but also insurance against mistakes and falsifications. But I don’t want to hear about psychedelics last. I think you don’t either.

So from time to time, I tell you about the most curious “pilot” studies. This issue is dedicated to the properties of psilocybin, the active substance in “magic mushrooms.”

Psilocybin VS Crime

It seems that not only Timothy Leary couldn’t come to terms with the failure of the Concord Prison Experiment. Grant Jones and Matthew Nock from Harvard University studied the connection between psychedelics and antisocial behavior from a slightly different angle. Their study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, looked at the influence of “magic mushrooms,” peyote, and LSD on the likelihood of being arrested.

The researchers analyzed the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data for 5 years (from 2015 to 2019) and found that those who took psilocybin were much less likely to be held accountable for theft, robbery, assault, bodily injury, and drunk driving. Interestingly, mescaline only protected those studied from car theft and drunk driving, while LSD had no effect on legal relations.

Jones and Nock took demographic factors (race, income level, and education) into account but are still hesitant to draw conclusions. After all, the study doesn’t answer the chicken and egg question: does psilocybin reduce the likelihood of committing crimes or are people inherently less inclined towards antisocial behavior more likely to explore themselves using “magic mushrooms”?

Psilocybin vs Depression

Psilocybin mushrooms were long overshadowed by ayahuasca, whose effectiveness against treatment-resistant depression has long been proven. But just a few weeks ago, a group of scientists from Johns Hopkins University, led by Natalie Gukasyan and Alan Davis, published the results of a 12-month observation of 24 patients with clinical depression, who underwent a course of treatment with psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy sessions in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The researchers found that after a year, the intensity of depression symptoms on average dropped from 22.8 to 7.7 points on the GRID-HAMD scale. Testing was conducted after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months following the experimental treatment — and the results at each control point were truly sensational. Psilocybin proved not only an effective antidepressant but also demonstrated a long-term effect even after discontinuation.

In addition, this study nailed another coffin in the stereotypes about psychedelics. Scientists found no negative consequences of psilocybin use: neither physiological nor psychological. No symptoms of addiction were detected either.

Psychedelic Trip vs Sleep

A psychedelic trip resembles a dream, while a bad trip is like a nightmare. Everyone interested in entheogens knows this. But now it has also been scientifically proven. According to the results of a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, psilocybin significantly increases the activity of the same brain regions that are hard at work during sleep. Perhaps this is why the content of a trip, like dreams, rapidly evaporates immediately after waking up.

A group of scientists led by Robin Carhart-Harris also noticed that in the brain’s default mode network (DMN), the reverse effect is observed. These areas are responsible for “defocused consciousness” and, according to some scientists, shape our sense of self. Whether ego death is related to the reduction of activity in the DMN, scientists do not yet know. The same applies to the validity of their observations for the human brain. After all, the experiments were conducted on mice.

In Conclusion

What is happening in the scientific community now is already loudly being called a psychedelic renaissance. Studies proving the immense potential of entheogens are emerging almost every week, and their results could have long since changed at least modern medicine. That hasn’t happened yet. The system is resisting with all its might. But I believe that the day will come when another, perhaps even “pilot” study, will be the last straw that will overflow the cup of patience and return to humanity what was shamelessly taken from it.