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Mycologist Paul Stamets believes they should be.
26 November, 2019
Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
- Mycologist Paul Stamets believes psilocybin should be offered over the counter.
- Numerous studies on psychedelics over the past few years are helping to build the case for therapeutic usage.
- Potential benefits include positive mental outlook and reduced depression and anxiety.
<p>Though Alexander Fleming's fame as the father of penicillin took nearly two decades to manifest, the discovery had a profound effect on humankind. Amazingly, every single dose in existence is derived from a single cantaloupe purchased in Peoria. Within a year of scraping mold from that fruit, American pharmaceutical companies were producing 100 million units per month.</p><p>The timing was fortuitous as medicine was in great demand during World War II. Antibiotics have since played an essential role in medicine (although sometimes negatively). That could soon change. As Bill Bryson <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/bill-bryson-the-body" target="_self">writes in his new book</a>, <em>The Body: A Guide For Occupants</em>, from the fifties through the nineties, Big Pharma churned out three new strains per year. Now the pace is one every other year, and declining. </p><p>The reason? We're becoming resistant to antibiotics. The <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/major-pharmaceutical-companies-dropping-antibiotic-projects-superbugs-2018-7" target="_blank">money is drying up</a>. Big Pharma would rather focus on drugs that hook us for life, such as statins and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).</p><p>Even beyond the serious problem of disappearing antibiotics, this profit-driven approach to medicine could be our undoing. Except in cases of medical necessity, no human should take a pill for life. For all the seemingly beneficial qualities of SSRIs, they're proving <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/02/blue-dreams/553781/" target="_blank">woefully ineffective</a> (and sometimes downright deadly) over the longterm. We need better solutions. </p><p>Enter Paul Stamets, one of the world's foremost experts on fungi. The mycologist was <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ6Ym719urg" target="_blank">recently a guest on</a> the Joe Rogan Experience, where he's preached the benefits of mycelia before. Discussing psilocybin, the psychedelic strains of mushrooms that have received much attention of late for their potentially therapeutic applications, Stamets noted that there is early research evidence that "the neurogenic benefits of microdosing are greater than the neurogenic benefits of macrodosing."</p><p>That's a big claim, but an important one, if true. Microdosing has predominantly been relegated (in the popular media's eyes) to tech workers using various protocols of psilocybin and LSD for <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lsd-microdosing-drugs-silicon-valley" target="_blank">productivity gains</a>. Stamets touches on this when saying, "Any new businesses populated in pinnacle by young people who are<em> not </em>doing microdosing are going to be at a competitive disadvantage."</p>
<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjEwNTE2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTkxMDk5OX0.6RdJIEUvpsCnjZkxMKh2LZBye7jmzwLgagazNL5Usuo/img.jpg?width=980" id="dd60f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="242914579b72bbac6ed53c51d872478d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>More relevant to the larger population is the potential for psychedelics to treat depression and other mental health disorders. Unlike current medications, serotonergic psychedelics appear to "reboot" certain brain regions, resulting in an improved mental health outlook. One <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6082376/" target="_blank">recent study</a> confirms their role in neurogenesis; the authors write, "psychedelics cause both structural and functional changes in cortical neurons."<br></p><p>Another <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267140/" target="_blank">recent study</a> investigated how microdosing affects creativity. Though "creativity" is often treated as an artistic endeavor, it is actually a fundamental aspect of cognition. One effect of depression is an inability to imagine a better future; the depressed feel "stuck." One method for overcoming this mindset is to creatively imagine different outcomes to the problems we face. English drug policy reformer Amanda Feilding <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Psychedelic-Medicine-Healing-Psilocybin-Ayahuasca/dp/1620556979" target="_blank">calls psychedelics</a> "tools for creativity, because they enable different parts of the brain to work simultaneously, allowing for new combinations of ideas to come together." </p><p>For the microdosing study, researchers examined the effects of psychedelic truffles (masses of mycelia that contain psilocybin) in the Netherlands. (Though the Dutch government outlawed psilocybin mushrooms in 2007, they continue to allow the sale of truffles.) Psilocybin binds to serotonin 2A receptors, the result being "enhanced cognitive flexibility, improved associated learning, and hippocampal neurogenesis." It has also been shown to improve optimism and provide a sense of subjective wellbeing. </p><p>Researchers did not use a control group for this study, so, as with the gamut of psychedelic research, more research is needed. But we do <em>need</em> it. The FDA is seeking better treatments for chronic mental heath problems. The agency has labeled MDMA research as a <a href="https://scienceofcaring.ucsf.edu/research/new-look-old-model-psychedelic-drugs-and-patient-care" target="_blank">breakthrough therapy</a> for PTSD due to positive early evidence of its efficacy. The same agency allows the usage of the psychedelic ketamine (under the name <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/121379/download" target="_blank">esketamine</a>) to address treatment-resistant depression. Psilocybin <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(16)30065-7/fulltext" target="_blank">has been shown</a> to be effective in treating this condition as well.</p><p>Meanwhile, DARPA, part of the United States Department of Defense, is attempting to <a href="https://newatlas.com/science/darpa-remove-hallucinatory-side-effects-psychedelic-medicines/" target="_blank">tamp down the hallucinatory effects</a> of MDMA and psilocybin to treat PTSD and depression in the military. Perhaps the agency should consult with Stamets, who noted the beneficial effects of combining psychedelics with niacin (vitamin B3). According to the mycologist, that helps prevent abuse, dilates blood vessels to better deliver the neurogenic effects of psychedelics, and excites nerve endings.</p><p>Beyond government agencies, Stamets's therapeutic model includes local pharmacies.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I hope to see, in the future, psilocybin mushrooms being sold as over-the-counter vitamins approved by the FDA and stacked with niacin."</p>
<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjEwMzk5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjI2OTIyMn0.Jh1qpagIIouvWdIbewUNUpsuf_bSs4jaBazVXC0qyzg/img.jpg?width=980" id="7eb65" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8d09a759cc9de128c6d3d40a81e427b8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Paul Stamets holding up a mushroom.
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