Researchers at Johns Hopkins University think it’s time to change the drug classification of magic mushrooms from a dangerous narcotic with no medical value, to a possible breakthrough treatment for depression.
Since 1970, authorities have considered psilocybin a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use. According to the researchers—who’ve conducted myriad studies on the mushrooms—neither assertion is true.
In an article to be published in October’s issue of Neuropharmacology, four researchers—Matthew Johnson, Roland Griffiths, Peter Hendricks, and Jack Henningfield—make the case that it’s time for the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider moving magic mushrooms from Schedule I to Schedule IV—meaning its a substance with low potential for abuse and few risks of dependence. If the classification changes, doctors could prescribe magic mushrooms in certain circumstances.
Researchers have been using psilocybin to successfully treat both depression and addiction in clinical trials over the past few years. In a 2016 study, the same team of Johns Hopkins University researchers administered magic mushrooms to terminal cancer patients with the goal of alleviating their end-of-life anxiety and depression.
“Studies showed that psilocybin caused significantly and clinically significant reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety lasting at least six months after psilocybin administration,” the newly published study explained.
The 24-page paper synthesized the different research into psilocybin to give the FDA the information it would need to determine whether or not psilocybin should be rescheduled. To determine a drug’s class, authorities consider eight different factors including actual or relative potential for abuse, risk to public health, and psychic or physiological dependence liability.
The relative safety of magic mushrooms, when compared to other drugs, is incredibly high. Psilocybin comes in last place when you rank drugs in terms of their harm to the individual or society at large. “Even if you throw in alcohol or tobacco into the mix,” Johnson, a doctor of behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University, told me over the phone.