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A medical use for magic mushrooms

July 1, 2008 |  1:01 pm

The LSD era is long past, but the use of psychedelic drugs to boost personal enlightenment hasn't lost its appeal to some researchers. Case in point is the study published online this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Johns Hopkins researchers reported in 2006 that the hallucinogen psilocybin, otherwise known as the sacred mushroom, caused a profound mystical experience in the majority of a group of 36 volunteers who took the drug in a laboratory setting. Two years later, the researchers re-interviewed the volunteers and found that the spiritual effects of the experience appear to last for more than a year. "Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives," says lead research Roland Griffiths.

Whoa! That's quite an endorsement for magic mushrooms. The researchers, however, say the drug could be used under careful conditions to help the outlooks of people with anxiety or depression due to serious illness. Psilocybin may also even help as a treatment for drug dependence. A new study is underway that will examine the effects of a psilocybin trip on people with cancer.

"This is a truly remarkable finding," Griffiths says. "Rarely in psychological research do we see such persistently positive reports from a single event in the laboratory."

Don't try this at home, however. The Journal of Psychopharmacology published an accompanying report on how psilocybin can be used safely and ethically in research. The drug is only given to people with no history of psychosis or serious mental disorders, and psychological support is provided during and after the experience.

And, in case you don't think this is serious stuff, the research was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

-- Shari Roan

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Comments (29)

This practice is not a clinical thing. It is better. It must be approached as a sacred practice and should be researched and understood not just studied in a lab setting. asl a mexican shaman. That would be a great start


I coulda told you that.

I agree. I had my first 'shroom trip 15 years ago. It completely changed my life in an amazingly positive way. I imediately felt connected to the universe and I haven't looked back.

Why are there so many studies like this that prove what's widely known and so few to, once and for all, disprove and discredit longheld but erroneous ideas like the social ills of cannabis?

Well duh. A whole generation could have told you that. Goes to show how insane our drug laws are. Wonder how many Americans are rotting in prison for having a "spiritual" experience?

Being able to peer into and beyond the horizions of one's own psyche is the root to the understandings of being human, as a part of humanity and as an individual. Left brain and right brain merged in conscious harmony and communication.

They should expand these experiments and work with those who have already gone deep into the spiritual realm that mushrooms open for us. Who knows, they might discover that veterans of this experience are useful guides for civilization to understand that reality is multidimensional and far far richer than we know. The so-called "aliens" we're looking for 'out there' on Mars or beyond are actually 'in here' right where we exist, in a mind so vast it's unfathomable, and quite unbelievable to visit. Besides, with gas prices these days, it's more economical to vacation inside your head and the sightseeing can't be matched.

This is an interesting article. My problem with it is that it sounds a bit too glowing. Like many drugs for people with mental problems, there are huge multinational drug companies, who may promote these studies, and who can't hide the dollar signs in their eyes. I'm old enough to remember the sixties, and am aware that there are many medical problems with these so called wonder drugs. I think in the end, nothing beats the long, hard, emotional work and development that can come from a competent psychoanlaytic experience for those with the motivation and strenght to embark on such an endevour. As a practitioner in the field, I'm very aware of man potential problems with such medication. HG.

I tried mushrooms one night 15 years and honestly found -- apart from the unstoppable and prolonged bouts of laughter -- that it threw my thinking into a serious place of confusion and worry and doubt, and overall this wasn't a good place to be stuck for so long. I was having profound shifts of belief and reality and religion, and it wasn't a good thing.

What this articles fails to tell you is these so called "spiritual" mushroom experiences, are nothing more than drug induced illusion. if you expect to "become enlightened and in tune with the universe" thats the type experience you will tend to see. The aliens the one person said you could see -- that are "not out in space, but right here", well, thats what you'd call a chemically induced hallucination, assuming you didn't mean that you'd hallucinate your friend was ET, and literally believe he was, and come to believe that after you came down. as someone who did more drugs most people do growing up, and expecting a spiritual element to psychedelics now that i'm older and much mature this is what i believe. its also very much common sense.

No kidding. But then again, what would organized religion and government do once we all discover that the Buddha is within us all?

My book club once took mushrooms, put on fun hats, then wandered around Culver City. We didn't discuss the book much, but it certainly was the most spiritual meeting of our club. Well, until we read Candy Girl anyway...

Ron Turner (LastGaspComix ?) is RIGHT ON.
It is historical fact that Laura Huxley administered LSD to her dying husband Aldous at his behest, to facilitate the transition.
Psylocibin, altho natural, is ~1000 times less potent per milligram than LSD, which has established & well studied psychoactive effects, and without the unknown dose & accompanying nausea usually induced by eating shrooms.
As Big Ron sez, this has been known for over 40 years, along with a host of other benefits when psychedelics are used in a supportive set & setting as Leary & Alpert repeatedly emphasized.
In 1966, Tim Leary appeared before Ted Kennedy's senate hearings to urge just such a responsible & humane position by the govnt. on the then `new' LSD-25, which had been used by people from all walks of life since the 1950's, mostly without media notice (or harm) until Art Linkletter's `crusade' in the wake of his daughter's death, causing a media firestorm, which politicians mindlessly picked up, and fanned the fires of fear, paranoia, & ignorance.
For the past four decades, Americans have been paying the price for our govnt.'s insane approach to drugs vis a vis its `War'. Perhaps this latest NIAB study will turn the tide, and foster a renewed wonder & appreciation for nature's greatest gift to human consciousness.

Since when does "spirituality" have to be drug induced? If one's spirituality does not exist without taking a drug, could it be that those who are on "mushroom trips" are not dealing in reality? I don't know the answers, but maybe someone who has been on a mushroom trip could enlighten me?

As one commenter stated, "reality is multidimensional!" Oh really? So, two people are standing in a rose garden. One is under the influence of "secret mushrooms" and the other is under the influence of Lite beer from Miller. The one on mushrooms observes the roses as very brightly colored red and the flower seems to be so alive and attempting to communicate. Oh, what a beautiful experience. The other person sees the roses and they are red. He recalls the poem, "A Rose is a Rose is a Rose"! That's all and he pops another Miller Lite and the next day, he is back to "REALITY"!

The End!

there's a lot of theories dude

The real question that science needs to find is:

Why something so amazingly useful and beneficial is illegal to grow or consume in this country that so many people claim is the home to Freedom.

All mood is effectively a "drug induced illusion". Mood is regulated by chemical transmitters in the brain and the balance of that therein. So it is a bit absurd for moral purists to argue that somehow benefit is not benefit if from an orally taken drug. Since the application of this "drug" would be once a year, dependency is clearly not a factor in its effect.

on a mushroom trip, i once saw the american flag bleed. then my friend's heads turned into mushrooms and we came to an epiphany on how to solve all conflict in the world.

To have a good mushroom trip, be sure you are in the correct setting (outdoors, in nature, with real and close friends), and be sure you are in the correct mindset (happy, calm, peaceful).

Dose size is crucial. Your matabolism, not your physical size/weight/age will determine the correct dose. Fast metabolism means you need less.

Be sure you have identified the species of mushroom you are going to take before eating/drinking them. Some are 100x more potent than others.

It's true that multidimensional reality or aliens in your head may be only hallucinations produced by the mushroom influence. The mushroom eater himself is usually flabbergasted to see how normal and usual things still appear after the dose wears off. But the residue remains--as with these subjects' resonating spiritual feelings more than a year later. The mushroom introduces a kind of non-linear, non-thought awareness. It suggests all time and space is acutally right here, right now, and it does it by producing the actual proof--you might literally see an historial event happen in a vision. The impact of knowing that reality could possibly be so deep sheds light on how to live more comfortably in the more familiar everyday world. Our problems are always couched as the 'human condition' and the mushroom allows that our condition is much more than we thought it was.


I just wanted to let people know that there is a new psilocybin study underway at Johns Hopkins University that is recruiting volunteers with a past or present diagnosis of cancer.

For more information visit:



Basically this study isn't going to be supported by the mainstream culture simply because nobody really makes any money off mushrooms. They are cheap to grow and relatively easy to cultivate, much like marijuana. So, while a new expensive drug comes out every day to treat depression and many other mental illnesses, these drugs will always be shunned because there is simply no money to be made in them so they will remain illegal.

wow LA Times rocks for having the awareness and courage to print articles like this. the study is real; the beneficial effects are real i will say to all of the doubters and counselors making money off the lack of awareness of patients and those who have not yet tried it but are quick to criticize or disbelieve.

my feeling after the experience was that, as with spirituality study in general, it ought to practically be a required educational course in the university curriculum (certainly in a controlled, supportive setting), after looking around at the amount of people with misguided priorities. not that everone needs it, but this stuff cuts through the consumerist haze and gets you real, and that's a really good thing for our planet and fellow humans. of course a consumerist society's controllers don't want you to find this out!

the problem comes in when this experience becomes abused with repetitive use. that's another issue and is not the intent of those who use it as a spiritual launch pad. but i've been wondering lately in today's climate if a refresher course isn't such a bad idea...

i would have 2 say that i agree with chris very much so. there is no money that can be really made with mushrooms like they can with all these other drugs that have really bad sideaffects, i mean just look at the TV all u see on there anymore is "if you have taken _____ drug you could have this wrong with you and maybe intitled to money so contacted a lawer '. im srroy but i would rather go with something that is all natural that god put here on earth for some reason to use than take something that u really don't know what all is in it and be alot worse off than what i started with. they have done studies in the UK that show that weed has cleard cancer and other things, but if r gov. alows it then they r out all that money from the other FDA drugs. if we as an individual has the say so weather we trun a way Dr. treatment or their drugs cant we have the say so of what we want 2 take instead. that is our freedom of chosie!!!!!!! and mine is not 2 take all these FDA drugs but take what God put here for me 2 use.



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