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In the US they begin to legalize the therapeutic use of “magic mushrooms”

Harry Watson



Under the informational overdose of the US presidential elections, interesting things have happened in some states of that country. Without going any further, Oregon has become the first to legalize “magic mushrooms” (psilocybin) for therapeutic use . From the outset, it may seem like news that is somewhat foreign to us, but as soon as we reflect on the matter we realize that, under a discreet vote in a remote state of the United States, a trailer is hidden of what is to come .

And it is that for more than a decade , the US has become the spearhead of a social, economic and political change in our relationship with drugs that has ended up entering the Spanish public debate . For this reason, the Oregon case is interesting beyond its “laboratory mouse” character and allows us to see live and direct how the tensions between the biomedical sciences and the legislation can create difficult problems to solve .

“Magic mushrooms”? “Psilocybin”? Therapeutic use?

Lets start by the beginning. Psilocybin is, along with psilocin, one of the best known hallucinogenic triptamine alkaloids . Although they were initially located in the fungi of the genus Psilocybe , there are almost a hundred other species that also synthesize it. Its consumption produces mydriasis, muscle relaxation, lack of concentration and, this is what has traditionally interested us, visual and auditory hallucinations without loss of consciousness .

Although for decades it has been one of the “great” recreational drugs , it is true that if we look back it seems that it had a prominent role in some rituals typical of the Amerindian medical systems. Perhaps that is why, following Youyou Tu’s trail with traditional Chinese medicine , in recent years, several top-level university teams have wondered if it could also play a role in modern medicine.

In fact, if we search the available research we can see that there is a growing number of studies that find psilocybin an interesting ally for treating emotional illnesses such as depression or stress. Especially those linked to other chronic diseases such as cancer.

However, the studies are small and the effect sizes are modest. Partly because its use and possession were illegal, psilocybin research is unable to pay the checks that its most enthusiastic advocates continue to spread to the media. It is something interesting and worthy of study, but it is very far from becoming a therapeutic option to use. In fact, in the vast majority of countries in the world (if not all) even if it were legalized, it could not be used as a treatment: it is not authorized .

A legal battle that goes beyond what science says

This is also the case in Oregon. To this day, it is not clear how this legalization of therapeutic use will work. The implementation of regulatory mechanisms and sanitary measures to allow the cultivation, distribution and sale of psilocybin is in the hands of the State Health Authority. Because we do not have, we do not even have clear treatment guidelines to which we can adapt. A therapeutic use has been approved that we do not know what it consists of .

This is logical because, in the US for example, both the FDA (the health authority) and the DEA (the administration for drug control) must approve any investigation with psychedelic drugs regardless of what the State in question says. This has prevented the country’s National Institutes of Health from doing studies large enough to support the therapeutic use of this drug.

This social and legislative pressure to approve uses that are not proven is bittersweet . On the one hand, it lays the foundations for the necessary studies to be carried out. But on the other hand, as it happened at the time with other drugs , often what is attempted is a legalization of recreational uses that has as a consequence the creation of a climate of misinformation about the potential and the real dangers that drug use entails. use of the drug in question.

That is why Oregon is important: its success or failure will mark the near future of an industry that, as in the case of marijuana , may be much more important than we can imagine.

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