(TMU) — According to researchers from the world’s first psychedelic research center, Centre for Psychedelic Research at London’s Imperial College, psilocybin—or “magic mushrooms”—could replace prescribed antidepressants within five years. The assertion follows similar research from John Hopkins University, which suggests victims of emotional trauma may experience more long-term relief when using natural psilocybin fungi instead of chemical drugs.
Dr. Robin Earhart-Harris, head of the research center, is leading one of the first trials to determine how therapy involving the mushrooms—which are currently illegal in the UK—compares to leading antidepressants. While he won’t pre-judge the study, he did share that the trials have resulted in a cathartic emotional “release.” He compared this to the dulled, “blunted” effect of prescribed antidepressants. It is the first of many studies planned at London’s Imperial College.
For the trial, 60 participants with moderate to severe depression will be given psilocybin treatment. They will be accompanied by a therapy session with a clinical psychologist. Participants will be randomly allocated to receive either the fungi or the placebo. Neither the researchers nor the participants will know who is in each group.
The effects of taking psilocybin will be compared with the antidepressant escitalopram. The drug is a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It accounts for the largest percent of the antidepressant market.
“If you ask people who are taking SSRIs chronically, they often say ‘I feel blunted’,” Dr. Carhart-Harris told the Independent. He meant both negative and positive emotions were suppressed. “With psilocybin therapy they say the opposite, they talk about an emotional release, a reconnection, and this key emotional centre being more responsive.”
An MRI is used to study the psychedelics’ effects on the brain. Early indications suggest that the list of side-effects is “twice as long” for escitalopram as it is for psilocybin therapy. The fungi also seems to act much faster than antidepressants which can take months to kick in.
But the therapy isn’t for everyone, of course. Dr. Earhart-Harris said that people with psychosis and regulators will ned evidence of its effectiveness and safety from clinical trials. Nearly everyone else is a potential candidate, however. In fact, the 2018 Global Drug Survey found that magic mushrooms are the safest recreational drug to take.
“I would imagine if you had some bookmakers doing the odds, there would be strong odds on that [psychedelic therapy] will be licensed sometime in the next five to 10 years – maybe sooner,” said Dr. Carhart-Harris.
“The implications of that are actually frightening to me, thinking of the power and influence of big pharma,” he added. “What are they going to do with that if there’s this big public demand for the ‘mushroom therapy’, and not the Prozac?”
The head researcher has a point—the market for antidepressants is a lucrative one. In one decade alone, the demand for antidepressants in England actually doubled. Between 2005 and 2015, the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications soared in the United States, according to the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. As a result, the antidepressant drugs market is expected to reach a whopping $15.98 billion by 2023, according to Allied Market Research. If research continues to prove the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin therapy, more cities may follow the lead of Denver, Colorado, a move that would undoubtedly upset Big Pharma.
According to Dr. James Rucker, another researcher exploring the benefits of psychedelics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, there is a “possibility” the fungi could be prescribed over antidepressants within five years. He added, “But only if everything goes to plan, and you know what they say about best-laid plans.”
“Like all treatments, they will suit some people but not others. The trick, as ever, is trying to work that out before administration. But that trick has proven to be remarkably difficult to pull off, particularly in psychiatry.”
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.