Magic mushroom breakthrough opens door for psilocybin prescriptions

Mushrooms containing psilocybin — usually just called 'magic mushrooms' — are a godsend for some individuals, proving to be a cure or a very effective treatment for cluster headache disorder and some other conditions, possibly including depression. Despite the growing evidence of psilocybin's medical potential, health-related usage hasn't been a viable option for most people. A new breakthrough study may change that.

Various studies have found favorable results when using psilocybin for a number of conditions: a better acceptance of death in terminal patients, potential easing of depression or anxiety in afflicted individuals, and more. Legality aside for a moment, using mushrooms as a prescribed medical treatment isn't feasible due to the sheer number of mushrooms that would be needed, plus the trouble with accurately dosing patients.

That makes this new discovery of how mushrooms produce psilocybin particularly interesting. The findings were made by a trio of researchers with Friedrich Schiller University, who identified four enzymes utilized by mushrooms to create the mind-altering compound. According to C&EN, the researchers also went on to make the first ever enzymatic synthesis of psilocybin.

By synthesizing mass-scale amounts of psilocybin, pharmaceutical companies could introduce a medication with a precise dosage, opening the door for medical applications. No such plans have been stated at this time, but the potential now exists. It also solves a mystery that has persisted for decades.

The use of psilocybin as a medical treatment still has other hurdles to overcome, namely the legality of such medications. In the U.S., for example, psilocybin is scheduled by the DEA as a Schedule I drug, which means that the government considers it to be both extremely dangerous and to be without any medical uses. Reversing such classifications has historically been difficult.

SOURCE: Chemical & Engineering News