Research References

The following is a collection of research papers documenting the reported benefits of psilocybin, grouped by topic area and sorted by date. Where this research has been reported on by the general media, the media item is listed first as it often provides an easier to understand description of findings. The related research report follows the general media item. The areas covered by this collection include:

For even more, visit these collections from organizations that help facilitate research on psilocybin:

 

Mental Illness

Research into the effects of psilocybin has shown it may have positive benefits in treating a host of mental illnesses, including PTSD, depression, suicidality, anxiety, and OCD, as well as by increasing general wellness. Notably, preliminary clinical evidence from using psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression has shown that it offers such a substantial improvement over available therapy that the FDA granted it “Breakthrough Status” in the fall of 2018. This will speed up its progress through the rest of the approval process.

 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

General Media: Magic Mushrooms Show Promising Results for Treating PTSD and Depression, San Diego Entertainment Magazine, 2019-02-10

Report: Lieber Institute for Brain Development, Effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogenesis and extinction of trace fear conditioning, Experimental Brain Research, 2013-08-01

Report Takeaways: Lab mice were initially trained to fear a stimulus. The fear response was such that some remained immobile for long periods of time, mirroring how veterans with PTSD react to traumatic memories. Mice then treated with various levels of psilocybin were then able to overcome this fear response.


 

Depression

General Media: Fast-Acting Depression Drug, Newly Approved, Could Help Millions, New York Times, 2019-03-05

General Media: COMPASS Pathways Receives FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for Psilocybin Therapy for Treatment-resistant Depression , PR Newswire, 2018-10-23

Report: Imperial College London, More Realistic Forecasting of Future Life Events After Psilocybin for Treatment-Resistant Depression, Frontiers in Psychology, 2018-10-12

Report Takeaways: These findings suggest that psilocybin with psychological support might correct pessimism biases in Treatment-Resistant Depression, enabling a more positive and accurate outlook.

General Media: FDA Approves Psychedelic Magic Mushrooms Ingredient Psilocybin for Depression Trial, Newsweek, 2018-08-23

General Media: Magic Mushrooms Do The Opposite of Anti-Depressants, But That May Be Why They Work, Science Alert, 2018-01-08

Report: Imperial College London, Increased amygdala responses to emotional faces after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, Neuropharmacology, 2017-12-22

Report Takeaways:  Psilocybin with psychological support was used successfully to treat depression by reviving emotional responsiveness.

Report: Imperial College London, Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up, Psychopharmacology, 2017-11-08

Report Takeaways: Symptoms of Treatment Resistant Depression improved rapidly after just two psilocybin sessions and results remained positive at six month follow up.

General Media: Magic Mushrooms Found to Be "Resetting" Brain Circuits in Depressed People, Science Alert, 2017-10-15

Report: Imperial College London, Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms, Nature, 2017-10-13

Report Takeaways: All 19 patients with Treatment Resistant Depression experienced decreased depressive symptoms at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. 

General Media: Research Shows Magic Mushrooms Can Offer Real Benefits in Depression Therapy, Science Alert, 2017-07-08

Report: Touro University California, Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A Review of a Novel Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2017-01-09

Report Takeaways: There were seven clinical trials that investigated psilocybin-assisted therapy as a treatment for psychiatric disorders related to anxiety, depression, and substance use. All trials demonstrated reductions in psychiatric rating scale scores or increased response and remission rates. There were large effect sizes related to improved depression and anxiety symptoms. Psilocybin may also potentially reduce alcohol or tobacco use and increase abstinence rates in addiction, but the benefits of these two trials were less clear due to open-label study designs without statistical analysis. 

General Media: Magic Mushrooms Appear to Ease Long-Term Depression, Studies Find, Science Alert, 2016-05-17

Report: Imperial College London, Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study, Lancet Psychiatry, 2016-05-17

Report Takeaways: Relative to baseline, depressive symptoms in patients with Treatment Resistant Depression were markedly reduced 1 week and 3 months after high-dose treatment. Marked and sustained improvements in anxiety and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure) were also noted.


 

Suicidality

Report: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2015-01-13

Report Takeaways: Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a significantly reduced odds of past month psychological distress, past year suicidal thinking, past year suicidal planning, and past year suicide attempt, whereas lifetime illicit use of other drugs was largely associated with an increased likelihood of these outcomes. These findings indicate that classic psychedelics may hold promise in the prevention of suicide, supporting the view that classic psychedelics' most highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific study, and suggesting that more extensive clinical research with classic psychedelics is warranted.


 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Report: University of Arizona, Tucson, Safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin in 9 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2006-11-01

Report Takeaways: In a controlled clinical environment, psilocybin was safely used in subjects with OCD and was associated with acute reductions in core OCD symptoms in several subjects.


 

General Wellness

Report: Maastricht University, The Netherlands, Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being, 2019-02-26

Report Takeaways: The present study demonstrates that psilocybin, taken in a naturalistic setting, promotes constructs of creativity and empathy, and enhances subjective well-being. 

Report: Johns Hopkins University, Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: Immediate and persisting dose-related effects, Psychopharmacology, 2011-06-15

Report Takeaways: One month after sessions at the two highest doses, volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal and spiritual significance, andattributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes, mood, and behavior, with the ascending dose sequence showing greater positive effects.

 

Addiction

Studies have shown that psilocybin may help break opioid, alcohol and nicotine addictions.

 
 
 

General Media: Hallucinogen Therapy Is Coming, Nautilus, 2019-03-21

Report: Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, The association of psychedelic use and opioid use disorders among illicit users in the United States, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2017-02-17

Report Takeaways: Experience with psychedelic drugs is associated with decreased risk of opioid abuse and dependence. Conversely, other illicit drug use history is largely associated with increased risk of opioid abuse and dependence. These findings suggest that psychedelics are associated with positive psychological characteristics and are consistent with prior reports suggesting efficacy in treatment of substance use disorders.

Report: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: A proof-of-concept study, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2015-01-13

Report Takeaways: Study participants diagnosed with active alcohol dependence did not demonstrate a significant increased ability to abstain from alcohol after receiving therapy alone for four weeks. Following psilocybin administration and continued therapy, their ability to abstain from drinking alcohol was significantly increased and were largely maintained at follow-up to 36 weeks. There were no significant treatment-related adverse events. These preliminary findings provide a strong rationale for controlled trials with larger samples to investigate efficacy and mechanisms.

 General Media: Hallucinogen in 'magic mushrooms' helps longtime smokers quit in Hopkins trial, HUB, Johns Hopkins University, 2014-09-11

Report: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2014-09-11

Report Takeaways: A study of 15 nicotine-dependent smokers that were given psilocybin found that 12 of them had ceased smoking at a 6 month follow up according to the seven-day point prevalence measure of abstinence.

 

End of Life Distress

Psilocybin has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening illness as well as increase measures of quality of life, life meaning and optimism.

 
 
 

General Media: NYU Langone Medical Center, Single Dose of Hallucinogenic Drug Psilocybin Relieves Anxiety & Depression in Patients with Advanced Cancer, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2016-12-01

Report: NYU Langone Medical Center, Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2016-12-01

Report Takeaways: In conjunction with psychotherapy, single moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust and enduring anxiety reduction and anti-depressant effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.

General Media: Hallucinogenic Drug Psilocybin Eases Existential Anxiety in People With Life-Threatening Cancer, Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2016-12-01

Report: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2016-11-30

Report Takeaways: High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction. Community observer ratings showed corresponding changes. 

Report: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer, Archives of General Psychiatry, 2011-01-03

Report Takeaways: We found a sustained reduction in anxiety that reached significance at the 1- and 3-month points after treatment. Mood also improved for 2 weeks after treatment with psilocybin, with sustained improvement reaching significance at the 6-month follow-up point.

 

Pain & Cluster Headaches

Users have reported that psilocybin has reduced the duration of or eliminated cluster headaches, in a comparable or more effective way than most conventional medications.

 
 

Report: Karlstad University, Sweden, Psychoactive substances as a last resort—a qualitative study of self-treatment of migraine and cluster headaches, Harm Reduction Journal, 2017-09-05

Report Takeaways: Based on user accounts, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, and related psychedelic tryptamines were reportedly effective for both prophylactic and acute treatment of cluster headache and migraines. 

Report: Yale University School of Medicine, Indoleamine Hallucinogens in Cluster Headache: Results of the Clusterbusters Medication Use Survey, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2015-11-01

Report Takeaways: Based on a user survey of 496 participants, the indoleamine hallucinogens, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, and lysergic acid amide, were comparable to or more efficacious than most conventional medications. These agents were also perceived to shorten/abort a cluster period and bring chronic cluster headache into remission more so than conventional medications. Furthermore, infrequent and non-hallucinogenic doses were reported to be efficacious. Findings provide additional evidence that several indoleamine hallucinogens are rated as effective in treating cluster headache. These data reinforce the need for further investigation of the effects of these and related compounds in cluster headache under experimentally controlled settings.

Report: McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Response of cluster headache to psilocybin and LSD, Neurology, 2006-06-27

Report Takeaways: The authors interviewed 53 cluster headache patients who had used psilocybin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to treat their condition. Twenty-two of 26 psilocybin users reported that psilocybin aborted attacks; 25 of 48 psilocybin users and 7 of 8 LSD users reported cluster period termination; 18 of 19 psilocybin users and 4 of 5 LSD users reported remission period extension.

 

Creativity & Empathy

 

Creativity - Psilocybin

General Media: A single dose of psilocybin enhances creative thinking and empathy up to seven days after use, study finds, PsyPost, 2019-03-07

Report: Maastricht University, The Netherlands, Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2019-02-26

Report Takeaways: The present study demonstrates that psilocybin, taken in a naturalistic setting, promotes constructs of creativity and empathy, and enhances subjective well-being

General Media: Can 'Microdosing' 'Shrooms Expand Your Creativity? Scientists Are Trying to Find Out, Live Science, 2018-11-02

Report: Leiden University, The Netherlands, Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting, Psychopharmacology, 2018-10-25

Report Takeaways: Both convergent and divergent thinking performance was improved after a non-blinded microdose, whereas fluid intelligence was unaffected 

General Media: Can Psychedelics Make You More Creative?, The Third Wave, 2017-01-10


 

Creativity - Other 
Psychedelics

Report: Maastricht University, The Netherlands, Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking, Psychopharmacology, 2016-07-19

Report Takeaways: The present data indicate that ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking. They suggest that ayahuasca increases psychological flexibility, which may facilitate psychotherapeutic interventions and support clinical trial initiatives.

Report: Stanford University, Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving: a pilot study, Psychological Reports, 1966-08-01

Report Takeaways: Tentative findings based on tests of creativity, on subjective reports and self ratings, and on the utility of problem solutions suggested that, if given according to this carefully structured regimen, psychedelic agents seem to facilitate creative problem-solving, particularly in the “illumination phase.” The results also suggest that various degrees of increased creative ability may continue for at least some weeks subsequent to a psychedelic problem-solving session.


 

Empathy

General Media: A single dose of psilocybin enhances creative thinking and empathy up to seven days after use, study finds, PsyPost, 2019-03-07

Report: Maastricht University, The Netherlands, Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2019-02-26

Report Takeaways: The present study demonstrates that psilocybin, taken in a naturalistic setting, promotes constructs of creativity and empathy, and enhances subjective well-being

Report: University of Zurich, Switzerland, Effect of Psilocybin on Empathy and Moral Decision-Making, The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2017-06-16

Report Takeaways: Psilocybin significantly increased emotional, but not cognitive empathy compared with placebo, and the increase in implicit emotional empathy was significantly associated with psilocybin-induced changed meaning of percepts. In contrast, moral decision-making remained unaffected by psilocybin.

 

Safety & Crime Reduction

Psilocybin has been shown to be physiologically non addictive, the safest drug to take in terms of needing to seek emergency medical treatment, and the least harmful drug both to the user and to others. Psilocybin use has also been associated with reduced odds of certain crimes, including theft, assault, property crime and violent crime. In contrast, use of other illicit drugs has largely been associated with increased occurrence of these crimes.

 
 
 

General Media: Hopkins researchers recommend reclassifying psilocybin, the drug in 'magic' mushrooms, from schedule I to schedule IV, HUB, Johns Hopkins University, 2018-09-26

Report: The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, The abuse potential of medical psilocybin according to the 8 factors of the Controlled Substances Act, Neuropharmacology, 2018-11-01

Report Takeaways: Psilocybin mushrooms have been used for millennia for spiritual and medical purposes. Animal and human studies indicate low abuse and no physical dependence potential. Major national surveys indicate low rates of abuse, treatment-seeking and harm. Psilocybin may provide therapeutic benefits supporting its development as a new drug.

Report: Global Drug Survey 2017, London, Global Drug Survey 2017, globaldrugsurvey.com, 2017-10-01

Report Takeaways: Out of almost 10,000 last year magic mushroom consumers, only 0.2% (13 men and 4 women) reported seeking emergency medical treatment.  Magic mushrooms were the safest drugs to take in terms of needing to see emergency medical treatment according to the Global Drug Survey 2017.

Report: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study, PLOS ONE, 2013-08-19

Report Takeaways: In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2001 to 2004), 21,967 respondents reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.

Report: Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis, The Lancet, 2010-11-01

Report Takeaways: Out of 20 drugs (including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and steroids) that were assessed as to the harm they incur upon users and to others, mushrooms were the least harmful in both categories.

Report: Heffter Research Center, Switzerland, Acute psychological and physiological effects of psilocybin in healthy humans: a double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-effect study, Psychopharmacology, 2003-11-13

Report Takeaways: Our study provided no cause for concern that psilocybin is hazardous with respect to somatic health.

Report: University of Alabama at Birmingham, The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2017-10-17

Report Takeaways: Psilocybin use was associated with reduced odds of past year theft, past year assault, past year arrest for a property crime, and past year arrest for a violent crime, and, in contrast, lifetime illicit use of other drugs was, by and large, associated with an increased odds of these outcomes.

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