“There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby, and invisible. And there is where God lives, where the dead live, the spirits and the saints a world where everything has already happened and everything is known.” – Maria Sabina, Mazatec shaman

Tassili n’Ajjer, a vast plateau that closely resembles the barren lunar landscape, is home to one of humanity’s oldest collections of artwork. Located in south-eastern Algeria, the group of cave paintings and engravings give us a glimpse into the life of prehistoric humans. Among the 15,000 or so engravings depicting weather patterns, wild animals, plants, and the lifestyles of ancient humans dating back to 10,000 BC, there are also rock carvings of psilocybin mushrooms being used by “mushroom shamans”.

In other places such as India, ancient texts describe the use of ‘Soma’ – food of the gods- postulated by many to be a concoction made from fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms. In ancient Greece, philosophers have often made references to a wheat-based beverage that they consumed during secret annual rituals in reverence to their gods, Demeter and Persephone. There are thousands of such examples from around the world in which mushrooms are portrayed as playing a central role in many religious and spiritual ceremonies. Mushrooms have always had a long and fascinating relationship with mankind, and while they are currently banned in many countries around the world, many advocates suggest that the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms plays a very important role in the future of our planet.

The shifting paradigm of psilocybin

Decriminalization is not just an excuse people are looking for to get high. Many experts and dozens of recent clinical studies suggest the fungi may be beneficial in combating a myriad of mental health issues – depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictions, and cancer. The success of these trials has been hugely dependent on government approval – something that has inhibited research into psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and mescaline since the Controlled Substances Act of 1971.

But many of the government’s claims have been proven false. The classification of psilocybin as a Schedule I drug by the US government, citing a lack of medical purpose and a high possibility of abuse, could not be further from the truth.

In reality, psilocybin is one of the safest intoxicants on record. A recent global drug survey found magic mushrooms to be the least riskiest drug – even safer than cannabis. Even users who reported experiencing ‘bad trips’ claimed that while the experience was one of the biggest challenges in their life, it was “meaningful” and “worthwhile”. Participants in clinical studies regularly report their experiences as one of the most spiritually significant events they have encountered, while not even a single clinical study has shown psilocybin to cause any serious adverse effects.

Experts suggest the greatest finding are yet to come. Researchers are studying psilocybin for its ‘mystical’ properties – ego death, transcendence and psychologically transformative effects, but many claim that current studies suffer from a severe limitations: government approval and a lack of volunteers willing to consume drugs.

Advocates cite these reasons as to why decriminalization and a reclassification of psilocybin as a Schedule 4 drug – one that does not mandate strict government regulation – is of utmost necessity. Two cities in the United States: Denver and Oakland, have recently voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms, but there is still a long way to go before decriminalization at the federal level may be possible.

The case of psilocybin is similar to that of cannabis. Both were ostracized and forced into the shadows by the American drug war. Grouped into the same category as heroin and cocaine, the damage done to these harmless plants in the eyes of society has been brutal and has only lead to incalculable losses to scientific research and medicine.

If history might teach us anything, it is that the potential of the sacred mushroom can never be truly ignored. The legendary fungi may very well live on in the books of our successors, long after our civilization has passed on.

In reality, psilocybin is one of the safest intoxicants on record. A recent global drug survey found magic mushrooms to be the least riskiest drug – even safer than cannabis. Even users who reported experiencing ‘bad trips’ claimed that while the experience was one of the biggest challenges in their life, it was “meaningful” and “worthwhile”. Participants in clinical studies regularly report their experiences as one of the most spiritually significant events they have encountered, while not even a single clinical study has shown psilocybin to cause any serious adverse effects.

Experts suggest the greatest finding are yet to come. Researchers are studying psilocybin for its ‘mystical’ properties – ego death, transcendence and psychologically transformative effects, but many claim that current studies suffer from a severe limitations: government approval and a lack of volunteers willing to consume drugs.

Advocates cite these reasons as to why decriminalization and a reclassification of psilocybin as a Schedule 4 drug – one that does not mandate strict government regulation – is of utmost necessity. Two cities in the United States: Denver and Oakland, have recently voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms, but there is still a long way to go before decriminalization at the federal level may be possible.

The case of psilocybin is similar to that of cannabis. Both were ostracized and forced into the shadows by the American drug war. Grouped into the same category as heroin and cocaine, the damage done to these harmless plants in the eyes of society has been brutal and has only lead to incalculable losses to scientific research and medicine.

If history might teach us anything, it is that the potential of the sacred mushroom can never be truly ignored. The legendary fungi may very well live on in the books of our successors, long after our civilization has passed on.