April 16, 2013
Researchers from Imperial College London in the U.K. have made some fascinating discoveries about so-called “magic” mushrooms, and their potential use as an all-natural, drug-free treatment for depression. But oppressive drug laws in the European country are making it extremely difficult for such research to continue, as they have thus far blocked human clinical trials that could help scientists better understand how the compounds in magic mushrooms work for this purpose.
As reported by the U.K.’s Telegraph, Professor David Nutt and his colleagues have been studying the effects of psilocybin, a particular psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms that appears to turn off areas of the brain associated with depression symptoms. In a small-scale, two-week study, Prof. Nutt and his colleagues observed in real life the benefits of psilocybin, which demonstrably improved mood among participants with depression.
But because it is currently illegal in the U.K. to pick magic mushrooms, which includes roughly 200 known unique species of mushroom, researchers evaluating their effects on human behavior clinically are technically violating the law. The law also requires that researchers studying psilocybin obtain a special license from the government simply to possess it, which has made it unnecessarily difficult for scientists to obtain both the substance and the mushrooms that contain it.
“Our approach is being limited by the baggage of drug laws, drug controls and the illegal status of these substances,” explains Prof. Nutt, as quoted by the Telegraph. Nutt recently petitioned the British Neuroscience Association during a recent lecture to push for a change in current drug laws. “Even if I do show it’s a really useful treatment for some people with depression, there’s only four hospitals in this country that have a license to hold this drug, so you couldn’t roll out the treatment because of the regulations.”
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Prof. Nutt was reportedly dismissed from his position as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs back in 2009 when he published a pamphlet claiming that alcohol and tobacco are more harmful to human health than LSD, ecstasy and cannabis (marijuana). Even so, Prof. Nutt’s existing research points strongly to psilocybin as a potentially viable treatment alternative for individuals suffering from severe depression.
“Using brain-imaging technology, it is possible to see that certain parts of the brain are overactive in depression,” explains Prof. Nutt, referencing his extensive research. “Our imaging work showed to our surprise that psilocybin shut off this network. Our normal volunteers also felt better for a period of weeks afterwards.”
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This article was posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 4:26 am