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Medical Mushrooms
May 17, 2014 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Given the success of medical and recreational marijuana initiatives in the US and the strengthening support for ending cannabis prohibition, why haven't we also seen a push for the legalization of shrooms for medical purposes?

Shrooms have a near-miraculous effect on OCD and may also help reduce anxiety.

It would seem like marijuana and mushrooms have many similarities - they're natural, not synthetic. They've been used spiritually and medicinally for hundreds of years. They both evince a low potential for physical dependency.

So, what's holding up a public push for the legalization of medical mushrooms?

Is it lack of awareness of psilocybin research? Lack of political support? The fact that shrooms are a perceived as "stronger" than marijuana? I've been thinking about the striking similarities between mushrooms and cannabis for awhile now, and while marijuana has gone mainstream, shrooms have not. Why is this so?
posted by Despondent_Monkey to Law & Government (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
OK, leaving aside all that "psychedelic" yadda yadda "schedule one" yadda yadda (which would probably form the main part of a good answer) the US population tends towards mycophobia. Any mushroom other than the button mushroom (or its older self, the "Portabello") is viewed with suspicion if not alarm. I have seen parents practically tremble with fear at the news that a choice edible was growing in their yard since they were terrified that their small children might learn of them. The US is not particularly "herbaphobic" however, with millions of US gardeners growing a selection of herbs themselves. Poisonous plants are everywhere and everywhere ignored for the most part. Again, this is to shed light on the difference without going into the "drug" aspect of cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms.
posted by telstar at 1:59 PM on May 17


If nothing else, I'd think exposure would play a part. Other than my parents, I can't think of anyone I know that hasn't tried weed at least once. While I do know quite a few folks that have used shrooms, it's easily less than 15% of that same population and many/most of those were one-offs.

Fear of the unknown is a strong psychological barrier.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:08 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I have no history of illegal/recreational drug use but my general impression is that shrooms are not used that much in the U.S. as a recreational drug. I think part of why we ended up with a movement to legalize mj is because of how commonly it gets used. I think you need a certain amount of usage before you get to some kind of ....um..tipping point, terminal velocity...something something.

What I mean is that you need to get enough people together and enough density of them in the general population before something like that gets discussed enough to get some kind of traction. A small number of folks sort of randomly saying "yeah, that sounds like a plan" (presumably often while high) doesn't get you from "recreational usage" to "organized political movement to legalize this thing."
posted by Michele in California at 2:09 PM on May 17


Psilocybin-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Dependence.

The researcher is a friend. He is impeccably credentialed and it was still nearly impossible for him to get the research approved. Progress, but there are still many biases and much work to be done.
posted by alms at 2:10 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


Because these things aren't driven by the facts of science, well-being, and efficacy. They are driven by political pressure and group action. Weed legalization has a long history with steadily growing numbers of people supporting it, drawn mainly from the large group of people who've used it.

Numbers. Just numbers.

So maybe a better question is simply "Why is weed so much more popular than shrooms?"
posted by General Tonic at 2:31 PM on May 17 [10 favorites]


Are shrooms harder to grow commercially or on a large scale? Or are they harder to grow because there's no innovation in growing them because there's little demand?

Speaking for myself, a non- drug user, if I were going to try a drug to treat a condition, it would never be something that would make me potentially hallucinate. I have no interest in anything other than relief of symptoms and a mild buzz. I think shrooms are what many people class as seriously Alice in Wonderland, hallucinatory, freak-out drugs -- even if that reputation is undeserved. Many folks have used weed or been around people who do, and it's obviously not really that different than drinking a couple beers. So that perception is probably contributing, even if it's unfair.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:39 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Psilocybin studies are fairly popular at Hopkins these days, but relatively speaking they probably sound pretty scary to laymen.

I participated in a Hopkins psilocybin study on its effects and meditation. This was shortly after they'd had good results with the drug in a study of depression in patients with terminal diagnoses.

It's hard to get funding for these studies. The drug has a stigma that pot doesn't have. And the testing required my commitment of about 100 hours of unpaid volunteer time during weekday work hours and a willingness to undergo a sort of counseling ahead of the dosings. The screening was very rigorous.

It will be decades before psilocybin is approved for medicinal use, in my opinion. The groundwork is only just starting to be laid.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:57 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Seems to me marijuana is being decriminalized because there have been years of intensive activism and advocacy by dozens of better and better funded organizations around the country, and because it is an enormously popular, widely used drug. Changes to laws happen when we organize to educate people and change laws.

Mushrooms are not popular, not widely available, not something that even big fans use on a daily basis, and have no particularly strong advocates for.
posted by latkes at 4:13 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Marijuana is a mild high which doesn't necessarily have visual hallucinations.

Mushrooms make you trip, with fairly extreme visual and somatic hallucinations. Especially at high doses.

I think that is the difference, and why mushrooms are less likely to be legalized.
posted by htid at 6:39 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


MAPS has a section on psilocybin research.
posted by univac at 6:56 PM on May 17


Yes, MAPS is the primary organization doing this work. They are both funding research and drawing attention to the results of it. There are a few other organizations and advocates, but MAPS is the main group doing the work on this and other psychedelics. The psychedelics, along with MDMA and similar drugs, are more likely to be legally recognized for medical use than recreational, so most of the advocacy is based on funding research and using the results to advocate for legal medical uses.

So in short, there IS a push, but it is less well known and less well funded, and has farther to go.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:34 PM on May 17


the US population tends towards mycophobia. Any mushroom other than the button mushroom (or its older self, the "Portabello") is viewed with suspicion if not alarm. I have seen parents practically tremble with fear at the news that a choice edible was growing in their yard since they were terrified that their small children might learn of them.

To be fair, if you eat the wrong kind of mushroom you can massacre your liver. If you don't know enough about mushrooms to tell which are safe to eat, you should leave the ones in your backyard alone.

"if I were going to try a drug to treat a condition, it would never be something that would make me potentially hallucinate. I have no interest in anything other than relief of symptoms and a mild buzz. I think shrooms are what many people class as seriously Alice in Wonderland, hallucinatory, freak-out drugs -- even if that reputation is undeserved. Many folks have used weed or been around people who do, and it's obviously not really that different than drinking a couple beers. So that perception is probably contributing, even if it's unfair."

Yeah, also this. I'm interested in the aforementioned studies on how mushrooms might help depression and other things, but I'm also utterly terrified of tripping. And yeah, weed is pretty much along the lines of "drank a few beers and where are the Cheetos."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:50 PM on May 17


Psychedelics, while they can be extremely helpful with depression/anxiety/addiction, are felt much more intensely than the more traditional psychological drugs like prozac/xanax/etc. This intense change of perspective for a little while is often why they work so well treating these mental issues long term, but it can be a bit of a shock to the system for anyone not prepared for it.

I think before too long though we'll start to see them reintroduced into the psychiatric field under the supervision of a doctor as they were before they were made illegal. But that takes a good several hours with the doctor and our current psychiatric system isn't set up that way. They're not something that can just be prescribed out to someone to take on their own and the patient checks back in with the doctor a month later.

We're also at the tail end of, but still very much alive, era of when tripping was treated in the pop culture as just visual hallucinations and seeing things that aren't there. Most people have no idea what it's actually like and the popular image scares them away from even attempting it in the first place.
posted by fishmasta at 12:50 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


While marijuana can be grown in many regions and over a wide range of conditions, psylocibin mushrooms have a pretty strict set of requirements. I don't think they could ever really become more than an artisinal, seasonal offering. Think morels rather than farmed button mushrooms.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:30 AM on May 18


To address some of the above answers, I can personally assure you all that cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is not an obstacle. With the proper setup it is not terribly difficult to cultivate large quantities year-round, with no digging through cow poop required.
posted by BeerFilter at 10:32 AM on May 18


jenfullmoon: To be fair, if you eat the wrong kind of mushroom you can massacre your liver. If you don't know enough about mushrooms to tell which are safe to eat, you should leave the ones in your backyard alone.

jenfullmoon has ably demonstrated the sort of paranoid fear that is the root problem here.

If you eat the wrong kind of berry, your throat can swell shut and asphyxiate you faster than any known mushroom poisoning on record.

There are leafy plants out there that are contact poisons. There are no known contact poisons in the entire mushroom world.

By species percentages, a plate of randomly-chosen leafy plants is far more likely to be poisonous than a plate of randomly-chosen mushrooms.

The LD50* for the most toxic mushroom on Earth is easily 100x larger than the LD50 of the most toxic leafy plant. *(dose required to kill half the members of a tested population)

And yet jenfulllmoon, and probably most USian readers of this post, fear eating wild mushrooms more than they fear eating wild plants.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:38 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


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