Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration made an incredible move by designating psilocybin treatments as a “breakthrough therapy” for the second time.
Psilocybin is one of the psychotropic chemicals found in psychedelic mushrooms. It's on the list of Schedule I drugs. In recent years, though, trials with the drug have shown a number of therapeutic uses that were previously unknown or ignored, thanks to the Drug War.
Usona Institute in Wisconsin released a statement in early January that the FDA had designated its psilocybin treatment of major depressive disorder as a “breakthrough therapy.” According to the FDA, the designation is meant to expedite the development and review of drugs that “demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy.”
But it's not only being studied as a treatment for depression. At Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, researchers are studying the effects of psilocybin treatment on addiction. Smokers are given large doses of the drug and counseled about their use of tobacco. The study has not completed yet, but so far, about half the participants have quit smoking. An earlier, smaller study reportedly succeeded in getting 80 percent of participants to stay away from tobacco for up to six months after the treatment concluded.
The drug is also being manufactured in Jamaica—where it's legal—as a treatment for post-traumatic stress by Oregon company Silo Wellness.
While there's still plenty of study to do, it's believed that psilocybin allows patients to rewrite their behavior patterns by linking areas of the brain that were previously unconnected and reorganizing existing connections. These effects are said to last for up to 14 months after a single treatment.
New Mexico has an interesting role in this strange new psychedelic revolution. The University of New Mexico has been the site of research on the subject, and it's also the workplace of Dr. Rick Strassman, a legend in the field of psychedelic studies.
But what's really shocking is that New Mexico also happens to be the only state in the entire country where growing psilocybin mushrooms isn't illegal.
In 2005, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that a man who was arrested for drug trafficking had not broken any laws by growing psilocybin mushrooms. Unlike its federal analog, state law does not include wording that defines drug manufacture using terms like “grow” or “cultivate.” The court said that distinction was made on purpose.
“Because there is no evidence that defendant engaged in 'extraction from substances of natural origin or ... chemical synthesis' as defined by (the drug trafficking law) ... his acts of cultivating or growing mushrooms, even if by artificial means, are not prohibited” wrote Judge James Wechsler.
Or, as author Bett Williams told Inverse in 2015: “They’re legal to grow, they’re legal to eat the fruits that you pull directly off the cakes, but you’re not allowed to have dried mushrooms.”
So they're still illegal in New Mexico … sometimes.
But have hope. With increased attention from the FDA and researchers, it's likely we'll see the drug rescheduled soon. In 2018, Johns Hopkins researchers suggested reclassifying psilocybin as a Schedule IV drug. And last year, psychedelic mushrooms were decriminalized in both Oakland, Calif., and Denver, Colo.