I TRIED magic mushrooms out of curiosity and in middle age. I'd been on the amateur mycological circuit for a couple of years, but hallucinogenic species were rarely mentioned at the foraging expeditions and conferences I attended. It's almost as if they were the black sheep of mycology: embarrassing to serious taxonomy jocks. I read some books on the subject, but most were tripper's guides that didn't utilize, um, specific language or current science. Psychoactive mushrooms had been in a kind of scientific ghetto ever since they were criminalized in 1968.
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A study published last month in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface compared M.R.I.s of the brains of subjects injected with psilocybin with scans of their normal brain activity. The brains on psilocybin showed radically different connectivity patterns between cortical regions (the parts thought to play an important role in consciousness). The researchers mapped out these connections, revealing the activity of new neural networks between otherwise disconnected brain regions.
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The fact that under the influence of psilocybin the brain temporarily behaves in a new way may be medically significant in treating psychological disorders like depression.
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Outlawed in 1968, it was swept up in the counterculture panic of the Nixon era and classified as a Schedule 1 drug, like heroin, under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. A Schedule 1 drug means it is considered to have the highest potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.
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A study published last year in the journal Experimental Brain Research found that psilocybin eliminated conditioned fear responses in mice, which has implications for sufferers of PTSD. And psilocybin has been shown to relieve anxiety, depression and despair in terminal cancer patients, who describe their experience as giving them a new perspective on their lives.
Anecdotally, psychoactive mushrooms may positively affect even nonsufferers. They did for me. I ate the mushroom as part of research for a book. The experience lasted about four hours, much of which I spent outdoors, but seemed to last much longer. I think because everything I was seeing was so new: the way the air was disturbed behind the flight of a bee, the way the trees seemed to respire, how the clouds and breeze and rocks and grass all existed in a kind of churning symbiosis.
There's been a lot of recent discussion of torture allegations against the CIA, and rightfully so. But let's not lose sight of the others ways in which our repressive government inflicts pain on the public. It is illegal for a trained doctor to prescribe this type of mushroom to a depressed cancer patient, with only 6 months to live. No different from selling heroin on the street. How do you feel about living in a country governed by people that cruel?
BTW, I notice that Congress has finally said NO!! to the Obama Administration's insane war on the use of medical marijuana:
The spending bill passed by Congress on December 14 includes a provision that prevents the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from interfering with states' medical marijuana laws.
The provision applies to 32 states and Washington, DC, which allow the use of marijuana or a marijuana-based compound, such as the non-psychoactive CBD, for medical purposes.
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Advocates hope the provision will stop the DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies from conducting raids on state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries. These raids have continued under the Obama administration, despite campaign promises to end them.
The bill's repeal of DC pot liberalization was a step backwards, but reining in the DEA on medical marijuana will be far more important in the long run. Glad to see bipartisan support for this in Congress. I had thought Obama would back off on the drug war after getting re-elected---he no longer has to worry about the voters. The Obama Administration's continued war on medical marijuana is a disgrace. The voters (and GOP) are actually ahead of Obama.