As the rest of us voted for a new president on Tuesday night, Oregon added a little something extra to the ballot: Measure 190, which would allow use of psilocybin, a psychedelic substance found in so-called “magic mushrooms,” for therapeutic purposes. The measure passed.
It still won’t be legal to possess psilocybin except under the guidance of a therapist or other licensed facilitator, but Oregon (and Washington, D.C.) also decriminalized possession of psilocybin in personal amounts. Researchers worry that legalization is “moving faster than science.”
The new rules won’t go into effect right away. Measure 109 will be enacted in two years after the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) structures a program with rules for growth of the mushrooms and distribution of the drug. The OHA also will have to figure out how tight to make procedures for consumers and clinical trials.
Psilocybin, which causes hallucinations and changes in consciousness, may be useful for treating anxiety, depression and PTSD. Recreational users say the substance can boost “mindfulness” and satisfaction with life.
The new Oregon laws will make it easier for researchers to collect data on the usefulness and dangers of the drug. However, psilocybin is still illegal under federal law. The US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration must approve any psilocybin research. However, the FDA already has given psilocybin a Breakthrough Therapy designation twice in the past 2 years, at first for use in those with treatment-resistant depression and later for those with major depressive disorder (MDD). An estimated 300 million people worldwide have MDD.
Many traditional antidepressants don’t work for everyone and have unwanted side effects, so new treatments are needed. Researchers at New York University found that use of psilocybin decreased anxiety and depression. In 2016, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that use of the drug relieved anxiety and depression in people with life-threatening cancer. Newly released research from Johns Hopkins published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found that a combination of psilocybin and psychotherapy relieved symptoms of MDD.
In the trial, patients with a history of depression were given two doses of psilocybin spaced two weeks apart. Each patient also underwent psychotherapy before and after getting psilocybin. Seventy-one percent of the patients had an over-50% reduction in depressive symptoms at 4-weeks’ follow-up.
Said study corresponding author Alan Davis of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine:
“The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market…. Because most other depression treatments take weeks or months to work and may have undesirable effects, this could be a game changer if these findings hold up in future ‘gold-standard’ placebo-controlled clinical trials.”
Johns Hopkins has begun a phase II trial based on their results. In a second phase 2 trial expected to end in 2021, researchers from nonprofit Usona Institute are looking into whether a combination of a single dose of psilocybin and psychotherapy sessions can help those with MDD. Because the drug has a Breakthrough Therapy designation, positive trial results should ease the way for a final phase III trial.
It’s likely other states will follow Oregon’s lead. And once the drug has been legalized for medical use in more states, it’s likely to follow the same path as marijuana, with states later agreeing to legalize recreational use.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.