Psilocybin Research, Investment and Legalization Is Heating Up 

Back in early 2018, the GWS predicted that “brain-resetting” psilocybin would emerge as a top wellness trend, with growing clinical evidence from major research institutions that magic mushrooms have serious potential benefits for issues ranging from anxiety to addictions.

The research, the investment in psilocybin companies, and a new push for legalization in states across the US are now really ramping up. Larger, more rigorous clinical studies are being funded: Johns Hopkins University recently opened a dedicated $17 million center for psychedelic studies (the world’s largest), Compass Pathways just raised another $80 million to take its global study on psilocybin’s effect on depression into phase 3, and NYU is now working on launching a Center for Psychedelic Medicine. In late 2019, the FDA designated psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” because the clinical evidence merited speeding up development.

Legalization action is rising in the US: The cities of Oakland, Denver, and Santa Cruz have decriminalized it; Washington D.C. is expected to soon vote on that; while Oregon has full legalization on the November ballot. Big players like Usona Institute, Eleusis and Atai Life Sciences are moving fast, and a wave of psilocybin start-ups like Mind Medicine are raising tens of millions in VC funding. There are so many new models and patents, from Usona Institute and Mindset just announcing new ways to synthesize pharma-grade psilocybin at a large scale to Mota Ventures acquiring Verrian for $14.2 million, a company that uses micro-dosages of psilocybin and dopamine reward dynamics to help people overcome addiction.

With the World Health Organization predicting that COVID-19 will unleash the largest mental health crisis (depression, anxiety, addictions) in modern history—and with early evidence that psilocybin has great potential for these issues—serious magic mushroom research, VC funding, and innovation will be a major story in the year ahead. Yes, there will be endless, frothy statements from the press arguing that “psilocybin is the new cannabis” (it is not, more below), but this is a development that the medical-wellness world needs to pay attention to.

This is from the “Mushrooms Emerge from Underground” trend in the 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report.

Summit Trend in the News

Are magic mushrooms going mainstream? - Al Jazeera

Video interview with experts on the growing evidence for psilocybin’s benefits on mental health conditions ranging from PTSD to depression, the momentum for decriminalization that is now heating up in the US, and how tech entrepreneurs are leading a charge toward mainstream acceptance.
Ease restrictions on medical psychedelics to aid research, experts say - Guardian
In late July, a UK free market think-tank and the Conservative drug policy reform group published a report urging the UK government to make psilocybin a schedule 2 drug, a move that would dramatically cut the cost and time taken to obtain a license and remove the stigma surrounding research into the drug.
Johns Hopkins scientists give psychedelics the serious treatment - Scientific American

In late 2019, the US’s oldest research university, Johns Hopkins, launched a $17 million center for psychedelic studies, the world’s largest. The center is aiming to enforce the strictest standards of scientific rigor on a field that many feel has veered uncomfortably close to mysticism.
Psychedelic medicine stocks capture the attention of investors - Seeking Alpha

One of many (somewhat breathless) new articles on how venture capitalists are zeroing in on magic mushrooms, betting that psilocybin will be beneficial for a host of mental health issues. 
Magic mushrooms and the future of psychology - Psychology Today

An illuminating conversation with Stephen Ross, M.D., director of Addictive Disorders and Experimental Therapeutics Research Laboratory at NYU, who has conducted extensive research into the effects of psilocybin.

Forecasting the Future

  • It is the medical research (not hype) that will likely see psilocybin reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug or legalized for regulated use in more states/countries. And the findings keep rolling in. One recent NYU study indicated that one dose of magic mushrooms reduced anxiety and depression in cancer patients (and for years). A new study from Johns Hopkins sheds light on why people have been consuming psilocybin for millennia and why it differs from other hallucinogens, involving increased psychological insight; awareness of beauty; and feelings of empathy, inner peace and amazement.
  • Given the legal cannabis and CBD market’s recent explosion, investment corners love to exclaim that psilocybin is an even bigger market opportunity. The future will be less simplistic analogizing. Psilocybin is hardly a daily recreational drug: It may be transformative, but it’s intense, which is why it has an extremely low potential for abuse. And most legalization will be focused on medical/psychiatric applications and environments.
  • Researchers are now studying what best impacts treatment success: dosage, how many sessions/when, and what kind of therapy/support is best during and between sessions. Medical experts argue that the right model is psilocybin-supported psychotherapy. While professional, clinical oversight is key, environments for delivery may move beyond the hospital, and one can imagine that more people would seek a medical-wellness environment/destination, where immersion in nature, sensory experiences and warm support are the brand.
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