Psilocybin (3-[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl]-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate) is a naturally occurring compound produced by numerous species of Psilocybe mushrooms, some of which have been used for centuries by various indigenous peoples for spiritual and cultural purposes1. Psilocybin and similar drugs, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline, fall into a pharmacological class often referred to as “classic psychedelics”.
Classic psychedelics are often characterized as having a dose-dependent capacity to potentiate profound altered states of consciousness through experienced alterations in sense perceptions (such as visual illusions, synesthesia, and distorted proprioception), space-time orientation, and emotional processing2. When ingested, the phosphate group in the psilocybin molecule is enzymatically cleaved to produce psilocin, an agonist at a variety of serotonin receptors including the 5-HT2A receptor3,4, which plays important roles in modulating behavior, cognitive function, and motor function.
Psilocybin was first isolated from Psilocybe mushrooms in 1957 by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann, followed by de novo synthesis in 1958. It was marketed worldwide by Sandoz Ltd. in the 1960s as Indocybin™ for experimental and psychotherapeutic purposes. Through the late 1970s, more than 1,000 papers exploring the behavioral and clinical effects of classic psychedelics were published5. However, concerns around wide spread, non-medical use throughout the 1960s led to psilocybin being placed in the Schedule I category of controlled substances in 1970, which effectively removed it from clinical use or scientific study for the next several decades.
Although psilocybin remains a Schedule 1 substance in the United States, several contemporary studies have suggested that psilocybin administered within a supportive psychotherapeutic context may have clinical potential for inducing therapeutically-beneficial behavior change in a variety of psychiatric conditions.
*Note that any Usona-sponsored psilocybin research that may be conducted with approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intends that psilocybin or placebo be administered as part of a carefully devised and controlled therapeutic protocol only, and that the study medication be administered only under the clinical guidance of trained and qualified therapists.
For more information on psilocybin and contemporary psilocybin research, please see Usona’s Investigator’s Brochure on Psilocybin.
1. Johnson M.W., & Griffiths R.R. (2017). Potential Therapeutic Effects of Psilocybin. Neurotherapeutics. 14(3): 734–740. doi:10.1007/s13311-017-0542-y
2. Brown R.T., Nicholas C.R., Cozzi N.V., Gassman M.C., Cooper K.M., Muller D…Hutson P.R. (2017). Pharmacokinetics of Escalating Doses of Oral Psilocybin in Healthy Adults. Clinical Pharmacokinetics. 56(12):1543-1554. doi:10.1007/s40262-017-0540-6
3. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Leech, R., Hellyer, P. J., Shanahan, M., Feilding, A., Tagliazucchi, E., . . . Nutt, D. (2014). The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 8(20). doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020
4. Nichols, D. E. (2004). Hallucinogens. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 101(2), 131-181. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2003.11.002
5. Preller K.H., Vollenweider F.X. (2016). Phenomenology, Structure, and Dynamic of Psychedelic States. In: Halberstadt A.L., Vollenweider F.X., Nichols D.E. (eds) Behavioral Neurobiology of Psychedelic Drugs. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, vol 36. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg