With magic mushrooms (“shrooms”) now decriminalized in Denver, Colorado, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and in Santa Cruz and Oakland, psilocybin is making a comeback — a phenomenon that has now reached Santa Barbara.
The key to the revival of this mind-altering fungi is micro-dosing, especially among Hollywood creatives and the tech wizards of Silicon Valley, who follow one of two protocols, one called (James) “Fadiman,” the other, (Paul) “Stamets,” the latter of which advises “stacking” psilocybin with niacin and Lion’s Mane, another type of (legal) medicinal mushroom known for its ability to improve mental clarity and enhanced concentration, for facilitating the effect. (Details of these protocols are available on internet sites.)
In Santa Barbara, with the right connections, psilocybin can be found in professionally wrapped chocolate bars and gummies (cherry or mango flavored). Note: Street doses should not be trusted due to their unknown strength, and those who choose to indulge should be mindful of “set and setting,” meaning your mental state and social environment.
Warning: Psilocybin remains — officially, anyway — a “controlled substance” and it is illegal to possess or ingest except in cities that have decriminalized its use.
That said, Senate Bill 519, which would legalize psilocybin and similar substances, was approved in Sacramento last June after clearing three committees. If enacted into law, criminal penalties for using or sharing would be quashed statewide.
A local shrooms-product marketer told The Investigator, “You have some people here in town who use it recreationally and others who use it medically, especially among war veterans who have suffered trauma. Most of my customers, the older ones, are micro-dosers. The younger ones go for a macro-dose and tune in to nature for about five hours. The demand for it is getting bigger and bigger, and nobody’s even secretive about it anymore.”
Chocolate bars (figure four grams of shrooms—a regular, visionary dose is 1 gram and a micro-dose is one-tenth of a gram) trade hands for $50.
One Santa Barbara-based micro-doser told The Investigator, “When I dose, I find that I have the best time at parties without drinking as much alcohol as I normally might. I’m more open than usual and totally in synch with the moment, along with everyone and everything going on around me.”
The psilocybin revival began in the late 1990s when researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were finally given a greenlight by the Federal Drug Administration to resume experimentation with psilocybin three decades after they were forced to shut it down.
Since then, Bellevue Hospital in New York City, Columbia University and UCLA have also developed pharmacological research programs incorporating psilocybin, which is a synthesized version of the red-and white-capped mushroom that grows wild.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
It was President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs”— later described by his key lieutenant and domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman as being politically motivated against youth opposed to the Vietnam War and African-Americans — that scared the public away from mind-manifesting organic substances and their synthesized counterparts.
The White House devised a propaganda campaign to paint all drugs as extremely dangerous, which led to the termination of critical medical research through the 1970s, 1980s into the 1990s.
As Mr. Ehrlichman put it directly to a reporter from Harper’s magazine in 1996: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.“
It is generally understood in research circles that the indiscriminate use of LSD as a party drug among college students in the 1960s along with the antics of publicity-loving Timothy Leary — labeled “the most dangerous man in America” by Mr. Nixon — provided the government with the ammunition it needed for its crackdown.
The late Terence McKenna, self-proclaimed Mouthpiece of the Mushroom, wrote, “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third-story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
Renewed experimentation at Johns Hopkins first dealt with terminal illnesses such as cancer. The results were extremely positive, putting anxious patients at ease with their upcoming appointments with the grim reaper and mortality in general.
The university’s focus has since changed.
Nathan Sepeda, research program coordinator at the Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins, told The Investigator, “Our current studies are focused on nicotine addiction, depression, anorexia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Results in all areas — add alcohol addiction and PTSD to the mix — are way beyond promising, to a point that in a few years, psilocybin could be the new cannabis, legalized and dispensed by licensed professionals in many states.
It is also believed psilocybin could be the ultimate solution to chronic pain due to how it creates new pathways linking parts of the brain that don’t normally communicate with one another.
As if that’s not enough, it was recently discovered in clinical trials that psilocybin is effective in treating anxiety and cognition issues among those on the autism spectrum. Said Dr. Marvin Hausman, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Nova Mentis Life Science Corp., a biotech company developing patents to treat neuro-inflammatory disorders, “The results are exciting and have shown that psilocybin corrects cognitive deficits and mitigates the anxiety-like traits observed in an environmental model of autism.”
If you think all this is crazy, be mindful that a slew of biotech companies, including Mind Medicine and Field Trip Health (both based in Canada), are already trading on NASDAQ with a view to eventually commercializing their products.
And in Denver, a “visionary temple” called The Sacred House of Eden, offers psilocybin retreats with guided visionary experiences. One testimonial on their website reads: “Hands down the most magical and transformative experience of my life. If the world had more places like this, it would be a much happier and peaceful planet.”
There are now transformational festivals and conferences, classes and workshops all around the United States, with many devotees believing entheogens are desperately needed for humanity to survive and revamp the planet into a better, healthier place.
Psilocybin is neither addictive nor generally toxic and is a gentler, softer hallucinogen than, say, peyote (used by Native Americans, who are allowed a special religious exemption by the FDA), ayahuasca (popular among shamans in South America), 5-MeO-DMT (Sonoran Desert Bufo toad venom, favored by boxing champ Mike Tyson and Hunter Biden) or LSD.
In micro-doses — it is reported by users — psilocybin provides clarity, a general feeling of well-being and an appreciation of the moment — as in Buddhism and nowness.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
New research suggests that every mystical vision in history, starting with those in ancient Greece who attended “The Mysteries” of Eleusis (the world’s first spiritual capital), was likely the result of entheogens — i.e. mind-opening substances such as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca (DMT), peyote (mescaline) or ergot (a fungus associated with rye bread and grain), from which LSD is synthesized.
Some historians believe that the sacramental beverage at Eleusis was laced with Claviceps, the fungus ergot.
Socrates, Plutarch, Plato and Aristotle all walked a road called The Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis to take part in the annual vision-manifesting rituals.
Says Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins, “The ecstasy witnessed in the lab is virtually identical to that reported by prophets and visionaries.”
“Sacred Knowledge,” a book by William Richards, one of the earliest pioneers of experimenting (at Johns Hopkins) with entheogens (he coined that word in 1979), identifies the feelings one experiences after dosing: Transcendence of time and space, intuitive knowledge, sacredness, deeply-felt positive mood, ineffability.
“And,” adds Dr. Richards, “these are the tenets of knowledge that hang together following mystical experience: God, immortality, interrelationships, love, beauty, emerging wisdom.”
And since these feelings and tenets are way beyond government control, little wonder psilocybin and other entheogens were outlawed and mostly remain so, though as this new visionary culture evolves into a global entheogenic reawakening, governments will be pressured to relent.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.