The Emerging Magic Mushroom Monopoly

In December 2017, one of the godfathers of the contemporary psychedelic renaissance, Bob Jesse, penned a manifesto for the commercial era of hallucinogens, one that echoed as far and wide as when Timothy Leary famously evangelized, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” in 1966. Jesse delivered a very different kind of message: “Open science for all!”

A philanthropist and independent researcher, Jesse was instrumental to reviving a new wave of medical interest into psychedelic-assisted therapy starting in the 1990s. This new form of therapy offers a revolutionary approach to treating the rising cases of depression and anxiety in the U.S. But Jesse began to see this pioneering research pillaged by Big Pharma, as soon as it showed commercial value as a breakthrough treatment for mental illness.

In the manifesto, Jesse took a stand against would-be monopolists for flagrantly misusing patent laws, advocating instead for a shared creative commons for psychedelic research, with limited intellectual-property rights. The statement attracted over 100 co-signers, including every major figure in the psychedelic research and NGO community, from philanthropic funders to grassroots advocates.

But there was a notable absence from the list: the founders of Compass Pathways, a rapidly growing psychedelic therapy company bankrolled by major investors, notably Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and right-wing political financier.

“It was very suspicious when they didn’t sign on to the letter. It gave a lot of people pause about what their plans were,” said Carey Turnbull, a longtime philanthropist in the psychedelic community who has become one of Compass Pathways’ main detractors.

Compass’s founders—millionaire couple George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia—had already raised eyebrows by quietly transitioning from a charity organization to a for-profit corporation in 2017. Compass was also conducting dubious drug trials on the Isle of Man, an infamous tax haven for the uber-wealthy with lax regulatory oversight. Suspicions abounded about the unusually restrictive contracts it pushed researchers to sign, and reports that Compass had blocked other organizations from signing a deal with one of their drug manufacturers.

The unwillingness to sign the letter was more than a snub. It was a harbinger of things to come.

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The human brain doubled in power, very suddenly, 200,000 years ago. Why?

There seems to have been a profound difference in cognitive abilities between early Homo sapiens and our immediate predecessor, Homo erectus. Sure, erectus stood upright — a big, um, step forward — but with the emergence of Homo sapiens, we see traces of art, pictography, and tool usage, and we believe humankind made its first forays into language.

In the early 1990s, psychedelic advocate and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna published his book Food of the Gods in which he surmised that homo sapiens’ cognitive leap forward was due to their discovery of magic mushrooms. The scientific community never took McKenna’s theory very seriously, considering it mostly trippy speculation — these days, his ideas have largely been relegated to the spacier corners of Reddit. Now, however, the idea has acquired a new advocate, psilocybin mycologist Paul Stamets, who’s suggesting McKenna was right all along.

In McKenna’s Stoned Ape hypothesis,” he posited that as humans began to migrate to new areas, at some point they came upon psychedelic mushrooms growing in cow droppings, as is their wont, and then ate them. After ingesting them, and more specifically the psilocybin they contained, their brains kicked into overdrive, acquiring new information-processing capabilities, and a mind-blowing expansion of our imaginations in the bargain. Many modern users of psychedelics claim the world never looks the same again after such an experience. As McKenna put it, “Homo sapiens ate our way to a higher consciousness,” and, “It was at this time that religious ritual, calendar making, and natural magic came into their own.”

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The chemical in magic mushrooms that gives it the “magic” is known as psilocybin. This compound or some form of it is found in approximately 180 species of mushroom. But these hallucinogenic fungi are not new substances. Rather, they are one of the oldest substances used and recorded in humanity’s history to increase levels of consciousness. 

As such, magic mushrooms have remained among the most common and popular psychedelic substances even today. They are quite popular in South America, Europe, and North America. But, as with all psychedelic substances, there are concerns over their usage and legality, and many places prohibit these special mushrooms.

But, that mindset is changing. Studies have recently claimed that mushrooms containing psilocybin can actually help the patients in some specific cases. In a 2017 study, they were found to have some effect when it came to treating mental health conditions. This was a big step forward for advocates who wanted to legalize psilocybin mushrooms.

As for the present situation, there are a handful of countries where it is completely legal to own and use magic mushrooms. Here is a list of them according to the major regions. However, be aware that the use of these substances in most cases is still dangerous. Moreover, in some cases, the law forbids the chemical “psilocybin” while not mentioning magic mushrooms themselves, which makes it very risky. As such, we will leave out the nations where magic mushrooms are not openly sold

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Take Two Shrooms and Call Me in the Morning: The Medical Promise of Magic Mushrooms

SIX YEARS AGO, on a late fall evening, I stood in front of a pinball machine, flummoxed. The game was space themed, with an elaborate UFO in the middle surrounded by a kaleidoscope of flashing lights. I was mesmerized, but I had no idea how to make it start. The machine’s coin slot and glowing buttons were suddenly indecipherable. Time felt like it had slowed to a crawl, and I became paranoid that the handful of people in the bar were staring at me, wondering what I was doing. It was then I realized that the magic mushrooms were kicking in.

This was the first time I’d taken a hallucinogen since my early twenties. Back then, as a university student, it was a lark. Now, in my forties with a family, the idea was daunting. This trip, however, had a medical purpose: for nearly two decades, I’ve struggled with a rare illness known as cluster headaches. Cluster headaches have been described as more painful than childbirth and kidney stones; they’re sometimes referred to as “suicide headaches” because of the mental toll they take. These headaches happen in groups—for me, they occur two or three times a day for weeks on end. Like migraines, they’re difficult to treat. Over the years, I’ve visited countless neurologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and naturopaths. I’ve taken prescriptions and experimented with cleanses and diets. Nothing worked.

Then I stumbled onto Clusterbusters, a popular message board created by a fellow sufferer, where people around the world could swap advice. There was one tip that was gaining traction: multiple posters were reporting that, after they had consumed magic mushrooms, their headaches had abruptly—miraculously—stopped. I was in the midst of a headache cycle at the time and was desperate to stop the pain. I reached out to a long-time friend in Toronto, and not long afterward, we downed a handful of dry, fishy-tasting fungi in his newly renovated kitchen.

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Hallucinogen in ‘magic mushrooms’ relieves depression in largest clinical trial to date

Psilocybin, the hallucinogen found in “magic mushrooms,” helped to relieve symptoms in people with hard-to-treat depression in the largest clinical trial of its kind to date, the trial’s organizers announced Tuesday (Nov. 9).

Earlier this year, a small study suggested that psilocybin might work as well as the common antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) at relieving moderate to severe depression, and other past research has hinted at the drug’s promise, Live Science previously reported. But this new trial, conducted by the pharmaceutical company Compass Pathways, is the largest gold-standard trial of psilocybin to date, so its results could carry more weight than previous research, STAT reported

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Study Finds Magic Mushrooms As Good or Better than Antidepressants for Fighting Depression

A study carried out by researchers at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London has led to breakthrough discoveries about the impact psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, has on depression. The study found that treating depression with psilocybin may be at least as effective, if not more effective as antidepressants.

According to researchers, in the most rigorous trial to date assessing the therapeutic potential of a ‘psychedelic’ compound, researchers compared two sessions of psilocybin therapy with a six-week course of a leading antidepressant (a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor called escitalopram) in 59 people with moderate-to-severe depression.

The results of the study were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the study, both groups had reduced symptoms of depression, however, the reductions occurred more quickly in the psilocybin group and were greater in magnitude.

After six weeks, the self-reported results from the patients suggested the psilocybin was just as effective as the pharmaceutical, and in many cases showed a slightly bigger – but ultimately statistically insignificant – improvement in symptoms.

“We strongly believe that the … psychotherapy component is as important as the drug action,” Imperial College London neuroscientist Robin Carhart‑Harris said.

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8 Ways Magic Mushrooms Explain Santa Claus and the Christmas Tradition

As we enter December, and approach the winter solstice, so begins our end of year rituals. Ritual celebrations convoluted over time, only to fit in with the society today. The traditions of our popular culture (Christmas, New Years, etc.) actually find their roots in early Pagan ceremonies that guide us to the closing of a chapter, to be reborn in a new year. The cultural Zeitgeist tells a story that during Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, however we are actually following astrological patterns, celebrating the balance with seasonal cycles and the precession of the equinox. This is the finite choreography of the stars, and the winter solstice is special occurrence that allows dreams to manifest in the year ahead.

These traditions were passed down, and found their way into the rituals of civilized societies like Denmark and Great Britain. With that, they lost an integral piece of the puzzle that was the soul of these rituals.

Mankind tends to seek a better definition, even if the root of the story is lost beneath the soil. So, eventually we find an opportunity to anthropomorphize the spirit of the shaman, which is where St. Nicholas comes into play. Jolly old St. Nick is the patron saint of the weary traveler, and the poor. This is one of the most important parts of the story, because with St. Nick, there is the importance of “making a list”, which is actually a Pagan ritual that will allow the manifestation of intention. This tradition was brought to Great Britain by the druids. Children are powerful, and using their energy to perpetuate something negative like capitalist gains, only further degrades our current society. The secret is not to make a list of material things that we desire – which is absolutely perpetuated by consumerism – but make a list of needs met with good intention. Whether for the self, of the better of humanity or the environment, it is important to understand what it is you truly need.

St. Nicholas also embodied the ethos of “giving to others in need”. This is the most significant part of the interpretation of this mythology. As the Shaman gave the psychedelic experience to those stuck in their homes during Siberian winters…this awoke their spirit, and gave them an understanding that could never be explained. It’s a sacred experience, and it was ritualized. St. Nicholas on the other hand, took what he could, and gave it to the poor. That is the tradition we need to perpetuate. It’s not about family gifting. It’s truly about spreading joy, and bringing joy.

While this time of year can be daunting due to the cold, it is a time for reflection, hibernation, empathy and gratitude. The darkness of winter, only brings forth the light of the spring…your intentions during the dark of winter should lay in positive actions, that will bring forth a positive future. In keeping to the concept of Karma – you reap what you sow. It’s a time of year, where we plant the seed of our intentions, into the soil of the universe. Life is beautiful, and it’s the season to reflect and embrace it. Give what you can, and the universe will respond positively in the year that follows.

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