'Shroom Science: Safe and Effective?

Fifty years after its introduction to science, psilocybin returns to mainstream clinical research.

Glenn McGee
Jan 31, 2007

In the August issue of Psychopharmacology, Johns Hopkins researchers published a study in which some subjects were given psilocybin and then asked to relate their experiences. Francisco Moreno of the University of Arizona published in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry his patients' reports that psilocybin helped them with migraine headaches. Harbor-UCLA Medical Center psychiatrist Charles Grob told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he is giving the compound to patients dying of cancer to see whether it eases pain by relieving anxiety.

The study of so-called magic mushrooms isn't new; it could be argued that it is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It began, as best anyone can tell, when Wall Street banker R. Gordon Wasson documented his trip to a healer in Oaxaca, Mexico, whose brew, he claimed, enabled him to see the reality of ideas and concepts. His 1957 essay in Life magazine...