The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Psilocybin’s legality deserves evaluation

Forget about medical marijuana for a second; after all, if marijuana — once considered a terrible drug — is now perceived to have medical value, surely it isn’t alone.

Another overlooked and benign substance is psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical in “”magic mushrooms.”” Psilocybin is a tryptamine, meaning it resembles serotonin, which plays a part in body temperature, mood, sensory perception and pain in humans. Humans have been eating psilocybin-containing mushrooms for more than 10,000 years — so there is no denying that it has had an effect on our culture — and it’s now making a comeback in the field of psychopharmacology.

Hippies aren’t the only ones who know about psilocybin; researchers have shown that it is a very useful tool. A University of California, Los Angeles, study showed that psilocybin produces profound spiritual experiences and improvements in behavior in cancer patients; it helps them deal with their anxiety about death. Other studies concluded that psilocybin is effective against Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, cluster headaches, depression and end-of-life anxiety.

Yet psilocybin remains a Schedule I narcotic, along with drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin. Why deny effective treatment to people suffering from such horrible conditions? What’s the problem?

Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated in a post on the NIDA website that psilocybin is not addictive but can cause psychosis in “”susceptible individuals.”” This is misleading. The effect of psilocybin almost entirely relies on the preconceptions of an individual about the experience (set) and the environment which the person is in for the duration of the experience (setting). When the set and setting are right, psilocybin is a great treatment for the conditions previously mentioned.

Physiological effects actually caused by the drug include increase in body temperature, dilated pupils and increased heart rate, and it can sometimes induce vomiting. The chemical itself does not damage the user in any way.

There is no reason for psilocybin to remain a Schedule I narcotic; it doesn’t even qualify as one, considering that it is not addictive and yields minimal health risks. When I emailed State Senator Linda Lopez to ask her opinion on psilocybin research, she responded, “”I’m very much opposed to classifying psilocybin as a Schedule I, especially since it can preclude research. Research on this hallucinogen is important for all of us.””

And indeed it is. If we can improve the quality of life for people through psychedelic therapy and do so effectively, what are we waiting for? There are no valid reasons for the current drug laws regarding psilocybin.

Bad policies like our drug laws should not get in the way of good science. And if words like “”psychedelic”” or “”hallucinogen”” scare you, I beg you to look at something beyond bad ’90s pamphlets and lava lamps. Try reading some of the studies on the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies website, or look at some of the publications in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Unlike “”Above the Influence,”” those sources will actually give you good data to look at and evidence for their claims.

Consider the end of your own life — will you be calm at the moment of your death? If psilocybin effectively treats our anxieties about death, everyone should have interest in this drug.

However, I do not think that we have done enough research to have psychologists handing out psilocybin pills or bags of mushrooms to patients; let’s stop arguing like children, look at the big picture and actually get some research done.

— Gregory Gonzales is a sophomore majoring in journalism and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

More to Discover
Activate Search