Well at this point you have heard the buzz on the street and are probably wondering what it is? The active ingredient psilocybin is contained in fungi of the genus Psilocybe (bald heads) and is used in the treatment of depression and anxiety. These magic mushrooms are said to have a long-term antidepressant effect. While larger doses promise an experience of spiritual enlightenment, regular smaller doses are said to increase productivity and creativity. Especially in cancer patients, the administration of psilocybin in combination with accompanying psychotherapy has been shown to bring about a lasting improvement in psychological and mental well-being.
There are records according to which mushrooms containing psilocybin were already used for ritual purposes more than 2000 years ago. Since about 70% of these mushrooms grow in South America, their use was largely unknown in Europe for a long time. It was not until 1957 that the Sandoz company, with the collaboration of chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann, succeeded in isolating psilocybin from the hallucinogenic fungi and shortly afterwards in producing it fully synthetically.
Sandoz quickly recognized that it was a new powerful hallucinogen with a significantly shorter duration of action compared to LSD. The company applied for a patent and conducted numerous research projects. By 1969, the number of scientific publications on psilocybin and its mode of action was estimated to be over 1000.
One year later, in 1970, however, research on psychedelics suffered a drastic break. With the American “Controlled Substances Act”, a law was passed that classifies drugs according to their respective addictive potential. For class 1 drugs, including psilocybin, the production, use and distribution for any purpose was prohibited. Similar laws were also passed in other countries, which at first led to research on hallucinogens being forgotten.
In recent years, research on psychedelic drugs has again experienced a new wave, especially in the USA, Switzerland and Great Britain. Since antidepressants often failed to treat depression, the pharmaceutical industry invested millions in research into mind-expanding drugs. The studies mostly focused on psilocybin, which is very similar to LSD and even ketamine to a certain extent regarding their effects, but does not have such a bad image and can also be administered in low, noise-free doses.
Psilocybin use in life-threatening cancers
Prof. Dr. Stephen Ross and his team of researchers investigated the effectiveness of psilocybin in the treatment of cancer patients at New York University in 2016. The results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In connection with a life-threatening cancer, patients often suffer from depression and anxiety. In the study, 29 of these patients received a single dose of psilocybin. After only 7 weeks, a significant improvement in their anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness and despair was observed. Even after 6.5 months, about 60-80% of the participants still showed reduced anxiety and depression. They reported about a sustainable improvement in terms of existential fears and newly gained quality of life and their attitude towards death.
The research team from New York University re-examined the anxiety and depression values of the surviving 16 patients in the study after about three and 4.5 years. Even several years after the one-time administration of psilocybin, a clinically significant improvement in the anxiety and depression symptoms was observed in about 60-80% of the patients. The majority of the participants attributed positive changes in their lives to the psilocybin treatment and even described it as one of the most significant experiences in their lives.
“Canadian Psychedelic Company Champignon Brands CSE: SHRM has begun to lay out the foundation for psilocybin and ketamine clinics in Canada. We first featured SHRM at $0.25 on its IPO”
Back to the story…
So how can it be that the unique gift of psilocybin produces such a lasting change in mood? The researchers’ theory: “Psilocybin possibly increases the flexibility of the brain and makes it more receptive to new ideas and thought patterns. In a press release, New York University also published the following explanation: When people indulge in self-reflection and let their thoughts wander, the Default Mode Network, the so-called resting state network, is active. The sleep mode network is a group of brain regions that are active when doing nothing and are deactivated when solving tasks. It is especially important for the ego feeling. In patients with anxiety disorders and depression, the Default Mode Network is overactive, which is associated with brooding, worry and inflexible thinking. Psilocybin seems to have an effect on the Default Mode Network and “may broaden patients’ perspective on their behaviour and life.
The study results have also been very promising outside the field of cancer research. A single dose of psilocybin not only has a lasting effect on depression and anxiety. The substance also inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain, as psychiatrist Rainer Kraehenmann from the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich found out. Psilocybin is converted in the body into a substance called psilobin, which acts similar to the happiness hormone serotonin.
Investors are beting big on Psychedelics “The New Cannabis”
The market for psychedelic medicine has experienced a real hype in recent years. While in 2017 2.8 million US dollars flowed into the sector, one year later it was already 70.5 billion US dollars. Many investors are betting on magic mushrooms and smell a potential billion dollar market for new therapies in the drug psilocybin.
One of the best known names on the street for the use of psilocybin is the British company Compass Pathways. Unfortunately it’s a private company, but the founders have developed a fully synthetic formula for the production of psilocybin and are now using it in clinical trials in Europe and North America.
In Canada there is currently only one company that holds the license to issue psilocybin-containing drugs: Champignon Brands (CSE:SHRM) our currently feature pick, who more recently took over the Canadian company AltMed Capital Corp. in April of this year for this very purpose and thus also acquired the license from Health Canada to use psilocybin. Like the pot days, the good old Health Canada license process starts again!
Another pioneer in the field of psychedelics is the German start-up Atai Life Sciences from Berlin. Founded in 2016, the company has already attracted a number of influential investors, including Paypal founder Peter Thiel and Icelandic billionaire Thor Björgólfsson. Atai does not conduct research itself, but works according to the “buy and build” principle. Young, promising companies from the mental health sector are acquired, developed into companies worth millions and then profitably sold to pharmaceutical companies or accompanied in their stock market debuts. The most important driving force behind this is the British company Compass Pathways.
The potential of drugs containing the active substance psilocybin is immense. For far too long there has been no significant progress in the treatment of depression and similar diseases. And this despite the fact that one in four people suffer from a mental illness at least once in their lives. “Covid19 in particular will accelerate this development, because the biggest driver of depression diseases is isolation,” says Florian Brand, co-founder of Atai Life Sciences.
Antidepressants have so far not only shown extremely little effect. They also have many side effects and their measurable success is only slightly above the placebo effect, as numerous studies have shown. Hopes are therefore pinned on the development of a drug containing the active substance psilocybin. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the beginning of the year, granted psilocybin the status of a “breakthrough therapy” for depression, in order to facilitate coordination processes until a drug is approved. In other countries, this has not yet been fully achieved. To this day, the production of these magic mushrooms is illegal in most countries and their possession is punishable by law
We are continuously looking for companies that are active in this promising sector and would like to be the first to send this exciting information to your mailbox:
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