Baltimore’s pot-smoking parents are lightweights next to the Johns Hopkins medical researchers making news this week for delving into more exotic substances — namely psilocybin, or (as the stoner down the block might prefer to call them) magic mushrooms. According to findings published in Psychopharmacology this week, JHU scientists figured out how to “reliably introduce transcendental experiences in volunteers,” thereby offering a sense of peace as well as “long-lasting psychological growth.”
The study wasn’t huge — it included only 18 adults, all healthy and with an average age of 46 — but it seemed to have an outsize impact on the participants: 94 percent (or all except for one lonely experimentee) counted the experiment as one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives. Nearly one in four (39 percent) called it the most meaningful thing that had ever happened to them. And the results seemed to ripple outward as well: friends, family, and colleagues reported that participants became “calmer, happier, and kinder” during the course of the experiment. The researchers are hoping to expand the study, exploring whether psilocybin can soothe terminal cancer patients, or help smokers quit.
Of course, the experimenters have to grapple with the legacy of drug experiments gone awry — as well as the inconvenient fact that psilocybin is classified as a Schedule One drug. But with the institutional might of Johns Hopkins behind them — and the admiration of America’s first drug czar — maybe we’ll find ourselves picking up our mushroom prescriptions at Rite-Aid in the not-so-distant future.
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