Entheogens and Psychedelics including Ayahuasca, LSD, Peyote, Mescaline, Psilocybin Mushrooms, Salvia


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Page last updated June 9, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

31. Medicinal Potential of Psilocybin

"Today, the medical value of hallucinogens is again being examined in formal psychiatric settings. One substance under investigation is psilocybin, 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, which occurs in nature in various species of mushrooms. Psilocybin is rapidly metabolized to psilocin, which is a potent agonist at serotonin 5-HT1A/2A/2C receptors, with 5-HT2A receptor activation directly correlated with human hallucinogenic activity.16 Psilocybin was studied during the 1960s to establish its psychopharmacological profile; it was found to be active orally at around 10 mg, with stronger effects at higher doses, and to have a 4- to 6-hour duration of experience. Psychological effects were similar to those of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), with psilocybin considered to be more strongly visual, less emotionally intense, more euphoric, and with fewer panic reactions and less chance of paranoia than LSD."17,18

Grob, Charles S.; Danforth, Alicia L.; Chopra, Gurpreet S.; Hagerty, Marycie; McKay, Charles R.; Halberstadt, Adam L.; Greer, George R., "Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer, "Archives of General Psychiatry," (Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, January 2011), Volume 68, Number 1, p. 71.

32. Safety of Psilocybin

"An important finding of the present study is that, with careful volunteer screening and preparation and when sessions are conducted in a comfortable, well-supervised setting, a high dose of 30 mg/70 kg psilocybin can be administered safely. . It is also noteworthy that, despite meetings and prior sessions with monitors ranging from 8 h (when psilocybin was administered on the first session) up to 24 h (when psilocybin was administered on the third session) of contact time, 22% (8 of 36) of the volunteers experienced a period of notable anxiety/dysphoria during the session, sometimes including transient ideas of reference/paranoia. No volunteer required pharmacological intervention and the psychological effects were readily managed with reassurance. The primary monitor remained accessible via beeper/phone to each volunteer for 24 h after each session, but no volunteer called before the scheduled follow-up meeting on the next day. The 1-year follow-up is ongoing but has been completed by most volunteers (30 of 36). In that follow-up, an open-ended clinical interview reflecting on the study experiences and current life situation provides a clinical context conducive to the spontaneous reporting of study-associated adverse events. To date, there have been no reports of persisting perceptional phenomena sometimes attributed to hallucinogen use or of recreational abuse of hallucinogens, and all participants appear to continue to be high-functioning, productive members of society."

Griffiths, R. R.; Richards, W. A.; McCann, U.; Jesse, R., " Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,"Psychopharmacology (Heidelberg, Germany: August 2006), Volume 187, Number 3, p. 281.

33. Psilocybin and Treatment of End-Stage Cancer Anxiety

"Despite the limitations, this study demonstrates that the careful and controlled use of psilocybin may provide an alternative model for the treatment of conditions that are often minimally responsive to conventional therapies, including the profound existential anxiety and despair that often accompany advanced-stage cancers. A recent review from the psilocybin research group at Johns Hopkins University describes the critical components necessary for ensuring subject safety in hallucinogen research.36 Taking into account these essential provisions for optimizing safety as well as adhering to strict ethical standards of conduct for treatment facilitators, the results provided herein indicate the safety and promise of continued investigations into the range of medical effects of hallucinogenic compounds such as psilocybin."

Grob, Charles S.; Danforth, Alicia L.; Chopra, Gurpreet S.; Hagerty, Marycie; McKay, Charles R.; Halberstadt, Adam L.; Greer, George R., "Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer, "Archives of General Psychiatry," (Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, January 2011), Volume 68, Number 1, p. 77.

34. Description of Salvia Divinorum

"Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant, which can grow to over three feet in height, has large green leaves, hollow square stems and white flowers with purple calyces, can also be grown successfully outside of this region. Salvia divinorum has been used by the Mazatec Indians for its ritual divination and healing. The active constituent of Salvia divinorum has been identified as salvinorin A. Currently, neither Salvia divinorum nor any of its constituents, including salvinorin A, are controlled under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA)."

Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, "Salvia Divinorum and Salvinorin A," (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, October 2013).

35. Description of Salvia and Its Effects

"Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant that can induce dissociative effects and is a potent producer of visual and other hallucinatory experiences. By mass, salvinorin A, the psychoactive substance in the plant, appears to be the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen. Its native habitat is the cloud forests in Mexico. It has been consumed for hundreds of years by local Mazatec shamans, who use it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.57 It is also used in traditional medicine at lower doses as a diuretic to treat ailments including diarrhoea, anaemia, headaches and rheumatism. Effects include various psychedelic experiences, including past memories (e.g. revisiting places from childhood memory), merging with objects and overlapping realities (such as the perception of being in several locations at the same time).58 In contrast to other drugs, its use often prompts dysphoria, i.e. feelings of sadness and depression, as well as fear. In addition, it may prompt a decreased heart rate, slurred speech, lack of coordination and possibly loss of consciousness.59"

UNODC, World Drug Report 2013 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.13.XI.6), p. 66.