Indigenous cultures around the world respected and even revered its mystical properties, incorporating it into their sacred rituals and therapeutic practices for centuries. If you’re eager to learn more about psilocybin’s early days, R. Gordon Wasson’s detailed study, “Soma and the Fly Agaric: Tracing the Mushroom in Religion and Folklore“, is a fascinating place to start.
In the 20th century, the Western discovery of psilocybin can largely be traced back to ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson’s encounter with psilocybin mushrooms during his trip to Mexico. This incident opened the floodgates of research and curiosity, propelling psilocybin from the realm of local tradition to the global scientific community.
Esteemed researchers such as Albert Hofmann, Humphry Osmond, and Timothy Leary then began to explore the science behind psilocybin, conducting in-depth studies into its effects and potential therapeutic applications. However, concerns from the US government about misuse and social consequences in the 1970s resulted in a considerable slowdown of psilocybin research.
As we ushered in the 21st century, a renewed wave of interest in psychedelics began to emerge. Renowned universities and research institutions, such as Johns Hopkins and Imperial College London, started vigorous research programs to evaluate the potential of psilocybin in tackling a range of mental health conditions.
Evidence from recent studies, such as the ground breaking paper “Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer” by Griffiths et al., affirms the sustained beneficial therapeutic impact of psilocybin.
On the legal frontier, changes are on the horizon. Denver and Oakland took the initiative in 2020 and decriminalized psilocybin. Not far behind, Oregon made headlines by passing a landmark act that allowed the regulated medical use of psilocybin. These progressive changes mark a dynamic shift in both scientific and legislative attitudes towards psilocybin, indicating that we are indeed in a period of historic change.