Interesting article by Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation in the Guardian: Magic mushrooms, international law and the failed ‘war on drugs’.
It’s actually two OpEds in one — the first being about the failed war on drugs and efforts within the world community to push back against the drug conventions, either through finding the “wiggle room” or through amending them.
The other is about the fascinating research into the effects of psilocybin on the brain.
Many users of psychedelics report the experience as a consciousness-expanding one, and conventional wisdom suggests that such drugs should increase brain activity and blood flow to the brain.
Instead, the research in PNAS showed that psilocybin decreased blood flow to specific regions of the brain that act as “connector hubs”, where information converges and from where it is disseminated. In the paper, we suggest that these hubs normally facilitate efficient communication between brain regions by filtering out the majority of input in order to avoid over-stimulation and confusion. But the hubs also constrain brain activity by forcing traffic to use a limited number of well-worn routes. Psilocybin appears to lift some of these constraints, allowing a freer and more fluid state of consciousness.
In the second study, subjects were given cues to recall positive events in their lives. With psilocybin, their memories were extremely vivid, almost as if they were reliving the events rather than just imagining them.
The findings suggest potential uses for psilocybin in the treatment of depression
We haven’t talked much about magic mushrooms here, but certainly psilocybin is an unfortunate victim of the war on drugs. It’s one of the most harmless of the illicit drugs (and less harmful than most licit drugs) and one that has some of the highest potential for beneficial use.
Certainly, at the very least, restrictions should be eased to make it easier to do research on psilocybin.
I got a kick out of Professor David Nutt’s comment (Nutt has called for legalizing psilocybin and has often been criticized as being “pro-drug” in his call for a rational harm scale on drugs):
â€œIâ€™m not recommending anyone taking any drugs. Iâ€™m just suggesting we need to have a more scientific rational approach to drugs and vilifying drugs like psilocybin whilst at the same time actively promoting much more dangerous drugs like alcohol is totally stupid scientifically.â€