Ohio State becomes first American university to be granted DEA license for psychedelic mushroom growth

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Ohio State became the first American university to receive a license to do research on Mazatec psilocybin mushrooms. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

Ohio State will soon grow magic mushrooms — for research, of course.

Ohio State recently became the first American university to be awarded a license by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to grow whole psilocybin mushrooms for research purposes, including studying the relationship between mental health treatment and psychedelics and identifying species-specific chemicals. The license was given in partnership with Inner State Inc., a mental health and wellness research and development company focused on psychedelics.

“Current research suggests that psychedelics, when administered in the context of psychotherapy with two trained clinicians, can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction and other mental health problems,” Alan Davis, assistant professor and director of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education, said in an email. “ They appear to do this through occasioning personally meaningful and therapeutic experiences as well as via biological changes in neuropsychological functioning.”

According to an Inner State news release , research into whole psilocybin mushrooms has been severely restricted in the United States due to its classification as a Schedule I drug.

The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as drugs, substances or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

“This license is a major milestone not only for Inner State and Ohio State but for the entire field of psychedelic research,” Ashley Walsh, Inner State CEO, said.

Jason Slot, associate professor in fungal evolutionary genomics, said universities have not been able to grow magic mushrooms until now because there were no set procedures and protocols for containment and disposal.

“Those protocols really had to be developed ahead of time and then presented to the DEA” Slot said.

According to an article by the American Society for Microbiology , trials exploring the efficacy of psilocybin were done in the 1960s, but research slowed after the compound was labeled a Schedule I drug by the DEA in 1970.

“The stigmatization and regulatory barriers surrounding psilocybin slowed investigation of its therapeutic potential,” Madeline Barron, science communications specialist at the society, said in an article.

Slot said the license does not allow for distribution of any mushrooms to anyone.

“It’s strictly for research that’s going on right here,” Slot said.

Davis said researchers hope to explore the use of a natural product, as opposed to the synthetic psilocybin that is used now, in human trials.

“It’s possible that some people may prefer using a natural product and/or that there may be unique effects of using the natural product compared to synthetic drugs,” Davis said in an email.

Slot said in addition to understanding the relationship between psilocybin mushrooms and mental health treatment, researchers are also interested in answering two specific questions: What are the other things that these mushrooms make that may be valuable for pharmaceutical development, and what does psilocybin do for the mushroom itself?

“That can be important for whether or not additional species ever become approved for decriminalization efforts,” Slot said.

Walsh said in a news release that there is more to discover in psilocybin mushrooms than just psilocybin.

“We are thrilled to be working with The Ohio State University to further explore the potential of the whole psilocybin mushroom,” Walsh said.

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